Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 8/11/12

James McDonald's nightmarish second half continued Friday night.

Staked to a 7-1 lead after four innings, the Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander gave up six runs in the top of the fifth and the San Diego Padres went on to rally for a 9-8 victory. The Pirates dropped to a 3 1/2 games behind Cincinnati in the National League Central but maintained a 2 1/2-game lead over St. Louis for the second NL wild card.

San Diego had already scored three runs in the fifth inning to cut its deficit to 7-4 and had runners on first and second when manager Clint Hurdle allowed McDonald to stay in the game to face third baseman Chase Headley. The move backfired when Headley hit a three-run homer to tie the game and chase McDonald.

"You want James walking out of it with a positive building block," Hurdle said. "If you take him out, it leaves doubt. But the move didn't work and it falls on me. Obviously, we felt he could get out of it."

Instead, McDonald wound up allowing seven runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings as his post-All-Star break troubles continued. He is 1-2 with an 8.71 ERA in six second-half starts after going 9-3 with a 2.37 ERA in 17 starts during the first half of the season.

McDonald was understandably downcast after blowing a six-run lead in a span of six batters. Cameron Maybin started the fifth-inning rally with a one-out walk, John Baker followed with a single and Jesus Guzman drove them both in with a pinch-hit double. Alexi Amarista singled home Guzman and Everth Cabrera singled before Headley hit his first of two home runs in the game.

"It's unacceptable," McDonald said. "It shouldn't happen. I let my guys down. Nobody feels worse than me. When you've got a lead like that, you've got to stay hungry and I didn't do that. I let them back in the game because I didn't execute my pitches. It was a very sloppy performance on my part."

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