|Thursday, May 15
Updated: May 16, 3:17 PM ET
McClendon criticizes Benson after Pirates' latest loss
PITTSBURGH -- Only a day after complaining his team gets too much criticism, Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon lashed out at pitcher Kris Benson following a 6-2 loss Thursday to Houston.
McClendon said it's time for Benson to stop pitching on potential, angry Benson gave back two runs in the fourth, just after the Pirates took a 2-0 lead. Benson (4-5) allowed three runs and six hits in six innings in his second loss to Houston in 11 days.
Benson, the top pick in the 1996 amateur draft, has long been projected as a dominating starter, but has only a 34-37 career record and has never won more than 11 games in a season. He missed the 2001 season for reconstructive elbow surgery.
McClendon called the 28-year-old right-hander his No. 1 starter, then said he has done little to merit such a label.
"You don't get those tags off potential," McClendon said. "You earn that distinction. This game isn't based on potential, it's based on results. There comes a time when you've got to go out and get it done."
The loss was the Pirates' seventh in eight games against the Astros in 11 days, and McClendon suggested Benson's inability to hold the lead was the turning point.
"When you get a couple of runs, you've got to go back out and go 1-2-3 in the next inning," McClendon said. "You've just gotten two runs off one of the best pitchers in the league (Roy Oswalt), you can't give those runs back.
"You've got your No. 1 starter against their No. 1 starter. Sometimes you've got to step up, execute, make your pitches. Sometimes you've got to win a game 2-0."
Benson wasn't happy with McClendon's rebuke, but declined to fault the lack of run production. The Pirates didn't score again after taking the early 2-0 lead.
"Giving up two runs there is definitely not what I wanted to do," Benson said.
McClendon's sharp criticism may partly reflect the uncertainty regarding his own status and the pressure he is feeling. With the Pirates already nine games under .500 after losing 189 games in his first two seasons as manager, McClendon is being booed regularly at home.
Despite being given a vote of confidence recently by owner Kevin McClatchy, McClendon -- in the final year of his contract -- knows he probably won't keep his job if the losing persists. The Pirates have lost 11 of 13 and 22 of 31.
McClendon probably didn't help himself Wednesday by predicting the Pirates were about to break out and would be in the middle of the NL Central race within a month.
Before Thursday's game, McClendon said the remarks were intended to erase the "negativity" surrounding a team that is 64 games under .500 since he was hired.
"Excuse me for being positive," McClendon said. "Somebody needs to be positive around here."
"We have a lot of talent here," Stairs said. "We need to put a string together and try to get back on track."