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PITTSBURGH – Clutch hitting has been absent from the Pittsburgh Pirates offense throughout the young season.

It didn’t make an appearance Wednesday night either as they fell to seven games below .500 after a 7-6 loss to the visiting San Francisco Giants at PNC Park.

Prior to last night Pittsburgh was a horrendous 2-for-29 with runners in scoring position in its last four games. It didn’t improve much as the Pirates stranded nine base runners, six of whom were in scoring position.

‘No we didn’t get the right hit when we needed it,’ Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. ‘Obviously we didn’t get that real big hit when we needed it.’

‘With guys in scoring position, we are trying to do too much up there,’ Pirates outfielder Brian Giles said. ‘We just got to keep going out there and put us in the position to win a ball game.’

The Bucs did have several chances against the Giants’ three pitchers but failed to capitalize. They left the bases full in the fourth and pitcher Todd Ritchie squandered another chance when he grounded into a force play with the bases loaded to end the fifth.

On the bright side for the Pirates, Craig Wilson made his first major-league start a memorable one when belted his second homer in as many days. Wilson deposited an 0-2 pitch from Russ Ortiz into the left field seats

Aramis Ramirez also launched his career-high seventh homer of the season in the fourth inning to tie the score 1-1.

Not to be outdone was Giants slugger Barry Bonds. Bonds hit his 12th home run of the season off Ritchie in the fifth inning. With the blast he moved within five homers of 15th place on the all-time home run list, currently occupied by former Giant Mel Ott who had 511 round-trippers.

The first two times through the Giants’ lineup, Ritchie gave up one hit and one walk. The third time, the Giants hit him out of the ball game.

‘I didn’t do anything different,’ Ritchie said. ‘I am in a rut right now. I threw some good pitches and guys were hitting them. I get to the sixth or seventh and things just crumble. If Mac loses confidence, he won’t put me in those situations.’

Ritchie was awarded a no-decision for his efforts. He pitched five innings and gave up five runs, four earned, on five hits.

Jose Silva (1-2) took the loss after he surrendered a three-run shot to Armando Rios, the first batter he faced in the sixth inning.

Giles got the Bucs back into the game when he hit his fifth dinger of the season in the bottom of the ninth. The ball bounced off the top of the center field fence before landing in the Giants’ bullpen, to bring the Bucs within one, 7-6.

But it wasn’t enough to combat a horrendous start, typified by rookie shortstop Jack Wilson who committed three errors in the first two innings and took over the team lead from Ramirez with eight.

‘If you play the game long enough, it will happen,’ McClendon said of Wilson’s fielding. ‘He is not superman. He is going to make mistakes.’

Jack Wilson cut his index finger on his throwing had during batting practice.

‘I didn’t think that it would be that big of a deal,’ Jack Wilson said. ‘It felt kinda weird (to throw).’

It was a big deal as the Giants got on the board first with the help of one of Jack Wilson’s miscues. Rich Aurilia grounded to Wilson whose throw was in the dirt and Craig Wilson couldn’t dig it out. Aurilia moved to second and scored on Wilson’s second error of the inning. Kent grounded to Jack Wilson and his throw pulled Craig Wilson off the base.

Sports Writer Wes Cedar can be reached for comment via e-mail at slyke18@aol.com .

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