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Looking back at second half of the season

At the All-Star break, the Trib ran a breakdown of highlights and (mostly) lowlights from the first half of the 2010 season. We didn’t get the chance to run one for the second half of the season, so …

July 17 – Erik Kratz, a 30-year-old rookie catcher, makes his first major league start. Kratz played in 555 games in the minors before the Pirates called him up from Triple-A.

July 18 – The Pirates rack up a season-high 19 hits, including seven doubles, and rout the Astros, 9-0. Andrew McCutchen injures his shoulder in the eighth inning making a diving catch and misses the next six games.

July 20 — Pedro Alvarez’s first career grand slam highlights a nine-run first inning, then Pirates scramble to hold on for a 11-9 victory against the Brewers. Alvarez adds a solo homer in the second inning and Neil Walker goes 5 for 5.

July 21 – Alvarez homers twice for the second game in a row in a 15-3 rout of the Brewers.

July 25 — After being designated for assignment, reliever Brendan Donnelly says the Pirates made the move to avoid paying him up to $1.5 million in performance bonuses.

July 28 — Ross Ohlendorf is struck on the head by a line drive hit by the Rockies’ Troy Tulowitzki. Ohlendorf winds up with only a bad bruise. McCutchen reinjures his shoulder crashing into the outfield wall to make a leaping catch.

July 31 – The Pirates trade three spare parts for catcher Chris Snyder, which makes Ryan Doumit a part-time catcher/part-time right fielder. By the end of the day, relievers Javier Lopez, Octavio Dotel and D.J. Carrasco also are traded away.

Aug. 4 – About 16 hours after being hit in the back of the neck by a 90 mph fastball, McCutchen is back in the lineup against the Reds. “I’m good to go,” he says, then homers in his first at-bat.

Aug. 7 – Alvarez smacks a three-run homer with two outs in the 10th inning to cap a wild, 8-7 victory against the Rockies. Announcers Greg Brown and Steve Blass go ga-ga in the radio booth.

Aug. 8 – Pitching coach Joe Kerrigan and bench coach Gary Varsho are fired. Manager John Russell says internal issues led to the dismissals.

Aug. 14 – Russell shakes up the lineup, hoping to finally spark the offense. The Pirates score two runs in the first inning, then rack up 17 strikeouts in a 3-2 loss against the Astros. Bud Norris whiffs 14, the most ever by a pitcher at Minute Maid Park.

Aug 16 – The Pirates spend $11.9 million to sign draftees, including top two picks Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie. The Pirates’ dollar total is the second-highest of the 30 MLB teams.

Aug. 19 – The Pirates buy the rights to 16-year-old pitcher Luis Heredia from Veracruz of the Mexican League for $2.6 million. It’s the fifth-highest bonus for an international signing in major league history.

Aug. 20 – A 7-2 loss against the Mets clinches the Pirates’ 18th straight losing season. It’s the fasted the Pirates have reached 82 losses in any season during their skid.

Aug. 23 – Leaked financial files show the Pirates made $34.8 million profit over the previous three years. Owner Bob Nutting holds a private press conference with four beat writers to defend the team’s policies, including a $20.4 million distribution of some profits to the partners in 2008.

Aug. 27 – MLB commissioner Bud Selig says leaked financial data shows the Pirates are “on the right track” with their rebuilding plan. A couple hours later, Lastings Milledge misplays a fly ball in right for a two-run triple, which sparks the Brewers to a six-run seventh inning and a 7-2 comeback victory.

Aug. 29 — Charlie Morton makes his first start in the majors in three months and is torched for eight runs in 3 1/3 innings in an 8-4 loss against the Brewers. It marks the first time since 1954 the Pirates have five 10-loss pitchers. Evan Meek is hit on the hand by a line drive, but sustains only a bruise.

Sept. 5 – On a cool, sparkling afternoon, a 14 1/2-foot statue of World Series hero Bill Mazeroski is unveiled outside PNC Park. Inside the ballpark, the Nationals roll to an 8-1 victory, their fifth in six games against the Pirates this season.

Sept. 10 – The Pirates score two runs in the ninth inning off closer Francisco Cordero, but lose in the 12th on a fielding error by catcher Snyder.

Sept. 14 – Milledge pulls his left oblique muscle during extra batting practice, and is out for the rest of the season. His absence gives John Bowker a chance to play most every day down the stretch, auditioning for a 2011 gig.

Sept. 18 — James McDonald gives up a run against the D’backs, snapping his scoreless streak at 20 2/3 innings. It’s the team’s longest run since Zach Duke went 22 innings in 2005.

Sept. 24 – The Pirates blow a 5-4 lead in the sixth inning and lose 10-7 against the Astros. It marks the eighth time the franchise has lost 100 games in a season in its 129-year history.

Sept. 28 – The Pirates clinch the worst record in the majors and “earn” the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft. It will be the fourth time the Pirates have the top selection.

Sept. 29 – Ten days after he guides Double-A Altoona to its first Eastern League title, manager Matt Walbeck is fired.

Oct. 1 — Chan Ho Park picks up career win No. 124 in relief, tossing three scoreless innings in a 5-1 victory against the Marlins. Park moves ahead of Hideo Nomo as the winningest Asian-born pitcher in major league history.

Oct. 3 – The Pirates lose 5-2 to the Marlins and finish with a 57-105 record.

Oct. 4 – Russell is fired and the coaching staff is told to look elsewhere for jobs.

QUOTES

– “Now that I’m here, it’s not time to sit back. I want to work hard and learn from these guys up here, so I don’t have to go back down and continue that grind.” — Kratz, who made his major league debut after spending eight-plus seasons in the minors.

– “It was like running a 100-meter dash and then running a marathon.” — Walker, after the Pirates go up 9-0 in the first inning and hold on for an 11-9 win against the Brewers.

– “I was watching it and, in my head, blowing it out.” — Alvarez, on his first career grand slam.

– “They said they’re moving forward. That’s fine. Good luck to the players here. I don’t know what their definition of moving forward is, but we’ll see.” — Donnelly, after being designated for assignment.

– “Ross must have a thick skull because that ball was hit hard.” — Garrett Jones, after Ohlendorf was hit in the head by a liner but got just a bruise.

– “As far as another catcher coming in, I’m all for improving the team. But, selfishly, I think I’m an everyday player. I expect to play and I want to play every day.” — Doumit, after the Pirates traded for Snyder

– “I lost two friends today, and that’s tough to deal with. But my main focus is this team.” — Russell, on his decision to fire coaches Varsho and Kerrigan

– “It sucks. I hate to cuss, but it does. Nobody likes it, nobody wants it.” — Russell, after the Pirates notched their 82 loss on Aug. 20

– “We have our bright spots and we have our days when we look like we don’t belong on the field.” — Jeff Karstens, after the 82nd loss

– “This group is young and it’s coming together. There is a plan being executed right now; it’s just not happening as quickly as anyone would like.” — GM Neal Huntington, in mid-August when the team had twice as many losses (80) as wins (40).

– “Yeah, we’ve set a lot of records this year.” — Russell, when it was noted the Pirates have five pitches with at least 10 losses for the first time since 1954.

– “I’m just thankful that we’re all alive and OK.” — Meek, after he became the third Pirates pitcher to be struck by a line drive.

– “Geez, how could anybody ever dream of something like this? All I wanted to be was a ballplayer. I don’t need all of this.” — Mazeroski, speaking at the unveiling ceremony for his statue outside PNC Park

– “I’ve done an excellent job here. Is it good enough? I don’t know.” — Milledge, on whether he’ll be an everyday starter in 2011.

– “It’s very special. I got a little lucky, but I also had a lot of motivation and a lot of focus.” — Park, after becoming the winningest Asian-born pitcher in MLB history

– “You look at our season in a nutshell, we got 83 losses from our starting rotation. You can’t overcome that. That was the biggest thing that disappointed me.” — Russell, on the final day of the season

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