Pittsburgh is riding its longest skid since dropping 10 straight in June 2021.
The Pirates fell 6-4 at Miami on Thursday in the opener of a four-game series. The visitors appeared primed to break their skid when they led 4-1 after homering twice in the top of the eighth, but the Marlins scored five runs in the bottom of the inning, keyed by Garrett Cooper's three-run, go-ahead homer
Following the game, Marlins manager Skip Schumaker raved about Cooper, an All-Star last year who went 3-for-4 with two runs
"A good Cooper makes us really good," Schumaker said. "The last couple of games, he's been hitting opposite-field doubles, extra-base hits.
"Gosh, if he gets going, he can carry us. He works really hard, and it's good to see him get results."
After hitting .272 through the end of April, Cooper struggled in May with a .175 batting average, and he missed 11 games in the month due to an inner-ear infection. Cooper was hitting just .208 in June before Thursday.
"You go through stretches in the year when you lose a little bit of confidence at the plate," Cooper said. "I spent a little bit of time on the (injured list), and that throws off your timing. You have to work through your struggles and put together the best at-bats possible."
Cooper will look for good at-bats on Friday against Pirates starter Luis Ortiz (1-3, 4.30 ERA)
This will be Ortiz's 13th career game and his 12th start. The right-hander has never faced the Marlins
Miami will counter with left-hander Jesus Luzardo (6-5, 4.09 ERA), who already has matched his career-high win total.
Luzardo has never faced the Pirates, who on Thursday placed standout outfielder Bryan Reynolds on the injured list due to lower back inflammation
Reynolds leads the Pirates in batting average (.279), hits (72), doubles (20), runs (38) and RBIs (40)
The good news for Pittsburgh is that designated hitter/outfielder Andrew McCutchen returned on Thursday after missing two games with a sore right elbow. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a walk.
The Pirates did receive a few big performances, including a strong start from Mitch Keller, who allowed just one run in seven innings
"It's frustrating that we weren't able to finish it for him," Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said.
The Pirates, though, must be happy with first baseman Carlos Santana, who is filling in for Ji Man Choi (foot injury). Choi began a rehab assignment at Double-A Altoona on Thursday and went 1-for-2 with a double
In the meantime, Santana is taking advantage of his playing time. A perfect example came on Thursday, when Santana stroked an RBI double, stole a base and came home on a throwing error by Marlins catcher Nick Fortes
Santana also made two outstanding plays on hard ground balls -- one diving to his right and the other sliding to his left.
--Field Level Media