All right, Zach Duke didn’t exactly pitch a great start, but the real culprit in his, and other recent losses to the Cincinnati Reds, was the Pirate bats, or lack thereof.

Ross Ohlendorf pitched a one-run start coming off the disabled list, and didn’t deserve to lose. And Charlie Morton’s six-inning effort was a three-run, quality start, which, by definition, should have given Pirates a 50-50 chance to win against a random opponent.

The Pirates were swept in the series because they were outscored 16-1. The one run was at the tail end of Ohlendorf’s 2-1 loss.

The last time the Pirates were swept in a series at home, they were outscored by the Milwaukee Brewers, 36-1. But with only one run scored in three games, it could have been 16-1, or even 6-1, and been the same result.

On the road, against the Houston Astros, the Pirates were outscored 22-8; no surprise that they lost all three games. Almost the same thing happened in the four game road series in Los Angeles, in which the Pirates were outscored 22-8, lucky to steal one game, 2-0.

The Pirates have a batting average of only .235, which is low even for them. The two Andys, McCutchen and LaRoche, are hitting well by any measure, and the two Ryans, Doumit and Church are hitting well for Pirates. (Though Andy LaRoche has been making fielding errors that cost games.)

But the rest of the offense is anemic. Garrett Jones is not currently the wonderkid he was last year, and Lastings Milledge needs to step it up, calling into question the wisdom of trading Nyjer Morgan for him. (Milledge has hit ZERO home runs so far, the same as Morgan, and his batting average is decidedly worse.)

The Pirates have about the best record in the majors, 11-2, in games in which they scored four or more runs. But that’s almost the total of their victories; they’ve won only three games scoring two or three runs.

The other position players—Jeff Clement, Akinori Iwamura, Ronny Cedeno—have fielded decently but can’t hit, either individually or collectively. Having one such player may be a good idea to encourage others on the field, but three of them is too much for a lineup.

The Pirates simply have not signed heavy-hitting, light-fielding players of the Gary Sheffield or Bobby Abreu variety, even when they came cheap (Sheffield for $400,000 after the rest of his salary was picked up, Abreu for $5.5 million in 2009).

The Pirates’ pitching isn’t great, but by some miracle, the hurlers have kept the team in almost every game where the hitters have hit decently.”Starting pitching” is NOT (for now) the team’s Achilles heel.

It’s the bats that have held the team back:The Pirates have the second-fewest runs in the National League, ahead only of the cellar-dwelling Houston Astros.

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