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Walker lines an RBI single in the first

PHOENIX -- Neither snow nor rain may stop mailmen, but neither heat nor dry air could move Pirates hitters.

The climate changed, but the Bucs still aren't running a temperature at bat, returning to their shell after scoring a first-inning run and dropping Monday night's series opener to the D-backs, 5-1, before 17,366 in Chase Field.

This one was a little more difficult for Clint Hurdle to explain, or to digest. The Pirates manager wasn't breaking any news in proclaiming Chase Field "one of the greatest places in the big leagues" for hitters. And the Arizona lefty on the mound -- Joe Saunders -- is respected. But he is not Cliff Lee or Clayton Kershaw.

"I thought we'd be able to throw more at him," Hurdle said after another six-hit slumber -- half of it in the first. "[Saunders] did move the ball around, but we had pitches to hit, and we didn't hit them."

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Pirates are the first Major League team since the 1988 Rangers to go through their first 10 games of a season without scoring or allowing more than five runs in any contest. The Pirates were the last National League team to accomplish the feat; they did so in an NL record 16 games to begin the 1965 season.

That distinction defines bittersweet: Blame the Pirates' hitters, and credit the Pirates' pitchers.

For Erik Bedard, allowing only two runs in five innings on Monday was enough to get saddled with the loss, his third. This wasn't the sharp Bedard, only the dogged one. His control let him down, particularly in the fourth, when two walks set up the eventual winning run.

"And he had 10 three-ball counts," Hurdle said. "So you like that he minimized the damage a lot more than the lack of command. But this was the second game he left down, 2-1, after five. We're not in a bad spot at 2-1."

Working without a net in a 1-1 tie, Bedard lost his footing in the fourth. He issued two-out walks to Paul Goldschmidt and Jason Kubel, and Ryan Roberts proved one of baseball's timeless proverbs with an RBI single that made those walks haunt.

"I just didn't throw strikes. I tried to limit the damage and keep the team in the ballgame," Bedard said. "It wasn't really a good outing. Although I did throw some strikes when I needed them."

Then, for the first time this season, the Pittsburgh bullpen was unable to buy time for the offense. Evan Meek surrendered Chris Young's two-run homer in the sixth, then pinch-hitter Gerardo Parra took a dip in the seventh against Chris Resop, hitting the 42nd splashdown homer into Chase Field's right-center-field pool.

The teams exchanged first-inning runs, with the Pirates having to work a lot harder for theirs.

Andrew McCutchen drilled a two-out single, and stole second before putting on the brakes at third on Casey McGehee's single to short left -- or deep short, if taking into consideration who fielded the ball. Neil Walker lined another single up the middle to score McCutchen for a 1-0 lead.

After Walker's hit, Rod Barajas walked to load the bases, which was the way they stayed as Josh Harrison's fly to right ended the inning.

"Bases loaded ... we're still lacking that big hit," Hurdle said. "Three hits in the first, then three the rest of the way. There's still work to be done."

In that first inning, the Pirates had four baserunners. The other eight innings, they had four more.

"[Saunders] seems to have the knack of not letting innings or games get away from him," said McGehee. "You might get one or two, but he's pretty good at minimizing the damage and keeping his team in games."

All Arizona needed to match the run in the bottom of the inning was one swing from Aaron Hill, who skied his third homer of the season over the D-backs' bullpen in the left-field corner.

The D-backs may have had the opposite record (6-3) of the Pirates, but they have gone about it the exact same way: six one-run games, none of the other three decided by more than three.

Bedard is looking at an 0-3 record opposite his ERA of 2.65. While it is an odd set of numbers, betrayal by his offense apparently is nothing new for the lefty.

This was former American League mainstay Bedard's 21st start against a NL club, and the 19th time he did not allow more than two earned runs. How many of those 19 has Bedard won? Eight.

"How many?" asked a wide-eyed Bedard, who, like most players, is not a stat guy. "That's not very good, is it? It's always frustrating -- as a team -- when you don't win."

Told that most of those other standout efforts resulted in no-decisions, that he doesn't have many losses in them, Bedard frowned.

"I've got three losses this year." Comments