Pirates lose to Reds, off to worst start in 32 years

CINCINNATI (AP) -- That one big hit keeps eluding the Pittsburgh
Pirates. So does that one breakout win.

Felipe Lopez homered twice and drove in three runs Friday night,
leading the Cincinnati Reds to a rain-delayed 7-6 victory that
extended the Pirates' worst start in 32 years.

Pittsburgh rallied for three runs in the ninth and had a chance
to finally break out, but Jeromy Burnitz struck out on a pitch in
the dirt and was thrown out at first base, keeping the Pirates

The Pirates are 0-5 for the first time since 1974, when they
lost their first six games. The 1955 club dropped its first eight,
setting the franchise record for futility.

"Nobody's going to help do it for us, but I certainly think we
should realize the fact that we've played five ballgames and been
in all five and had chances to win them," manager Jim Tracy said.

Pittsburgh finished last in the NL Central a year ago, 33 games
out. The Pirates retooled their everyday lineup, adding former Reds
Sean Casey and Joe Randa, but are 4½ games out of first place less
than a week into the season.

Casey hit a two-run homer off left-hander Eric Milton (1-0), but
the Pirates couldn't cobble together a rally against the pitcher
who led the NL in runs and homers allowed last season. Milton gave
up six hits, didn't walk a batter and struck out three in seven

"He had rhythm," Lopez said. "You could tell he was
confident, and when he's like that, it trickles down to all of

Pittsburgh got back into it with three runs in the ninth. One
scored when left fielder Adam Dunn let Ryan Doumit's single get
past him for an error, and pinch-hitter Craig Wilson had a two-run
homer off David Weathers. Left-hander Kent Mercker struck out
Burnitz with two on for his first save.

Cincinnati finished fifth last year because its pitching staff
was the NL's worst. Milton was the biggest disappointment in the
bunch, losing 15 games and giving up a major league-leading 40

In his first start of 2006, he waited through a delay of 2
hours, 25 minutes before the first pitch, then came through with
one of his best performances for the Reds. He didn't allow a runner
to reach second base until the sixth.

"It's just frustrating," Milton said of the long wait. "I was
sitting home antsy and bored, so I got here early. I was sitting
around for seven hours, and this was my first start of the year.
You want to get it done."

Left-hander Paul Maholm (0-1) had control problems on a cool,
drizzly night. He set a career high by walking five batters, and
three of them scored. Lopez homered in the third following a walk,
and Austin Kearns completed the rally with a two-run double that
landed near a puddle on the right-field warning track.

"The third inning pretty much killed me," Maholm said. "I
fell behind everybody. A good team like that does the job. That's
pretty much what happened. If I could have had a better inning, it
could have been a better game."

Lopez hit John Grabow's first pitch for another homer leading
off the seventh, the second two-homer game of his career. David
Ross added a solo shot in the eighth off Matt Capps.

Seventeen homers have been hit in four games at Great American
Ball Park, which led the majors in yielding homers last season.

Nate McLouth was the first Pirate to reach second when he led
off the sixth inning with a double, snapping an 0-for-19 slump by
Pittsburgh's leadoff hitters. Casey homered one out later.

Milton and Maholm were warming up and the field was lined and
ready to go when the rain started. More than two hours later, the
starters trudged back out to the bullpens to warm up again while
workers cleared puddles from the warning track.

The Reds sold 16,573 tickets for the game, but far fewer were in
the stands for the first pitch. Two fans were arrested during the
delay for running onto the field.

Game notes
Lopez's other two-homer game came for Toronto on Sept. 4,
2001, against the Yankees. ... Cincinnati has scored at least six
runs in each of its four games, hitting a total of nine homers. ...
Reds C Jason LaRue caught for 12 minutes in the bullpen without any
problems. LaRue had surgery for torn cartilage in his right knee on
March 27. He expects to be reinstated from the DL on Tuesday in
Chicago for a series against the Cubs. ... Milton fanned Jason Bay
in the first inning for his 1,000th career strikeout.