Kyle McPherson threw his first 10 pitches for strikes Thursday night, but in those 10 pitches he allowed two runs on four hits.
They were bad strikes - up in the zone, catching too much of the plate - and New Britain hammered them.
"It's quality versus quantity there, and even though they might have been strikes, they weren't really quality strikes," McPherson said.
The Curve starter and Pirates 2011 minor league pitcher of the year struggled in his second start of the season, allowing five runs on seven hits in six innings. He finished strong to help save the bullpen, but the rough start buried the club in a hole that resulted in a 5-3 loss before 2,854 fans at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
"I've just got to work on attacking the bottom of the zone earlier in the game and not let them jump on top like they did," said McPherson, who allowed single runs in the first and second before giving up three in the fourth for a 5-2 Rock Cats lead.
McPherson had been slated to start the season in Triple-A but had to miss the first two months of the season with a shoulder injury. The right-hander was impressive in his first start at Binghamton, allowing one run in five innings, but the control problems bit him Thursday.
Tonight: Akron at Altoona, 7 p.m.
Pitching matchups: Curve RHP Brandon Cumpton (7-5, 3.22) vs. Aeros RHP Steven Wright (5-4, 1.79)
"Up is his Achilles heel," Curve manager P.J. Forbes said. "His changeup was up a little bit tonight, obviously some fastballs were up tonight. He's got to pitch down in the zone with his fastball to make that changeup more effective. If the changeup's up and the fastballs, everything's hittable in the zone."
It's the difference between good strikes and bad strikes. McPherson (1-1) actually started the game with 13 consecutive strikes over two innings, but none of them were fooling New Britain's hitters, who came to the plate looking to be aggressive early in the count.
"Last year when he was here, he was at the knees 90 percent of the time," Forbes said of McPherson's location. "Haven't seen that yet. Even his first start, he wasn't as down as he needs to be to make all his pitches that much more effective."
Former Curve and Pirates pitcher Aaron Thompson earned the win for New Britain, giving up three runs on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings. The lefty was suspended for the first 50 games this season after testing positive for a banned substance in spring training.
Thompson was making his fourth start for the Rock Cats. He opened last season with the Curve and did not pitch well, going 4-7 with a 5.16 ERA in 28 games (12 starts), then was much better in Triple-A, going 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in five games (four starts).
The Pirates needed some left-handed help late in the season and gave Thompson a shot, and he was 0-0 with a 7.04 ERA in four games (one start).
Thompson (1-2) gave up two runs on four hits in the first inning Thursday but settled down after that, allowing just one more run on four hits in his final 5 1/3 innings.
"He kept us off balance, you could see by some balls coming off, weak groundballs, fly balls off the end of the bat," said Forbes, who managed Thompson last season.
"That's as good as I've seen his changeup. He had that at times last year down in the zone with life. When he pitches like that he's very effective because he can use both sides of the plate. He knows how to pitch."
Neither team scored in the final five innings, but the Curve did mount a threat in the ninth as they put the tying runs on with two outs. Rock Cats reliever struck out Evan Chambers to get out of the jam and earn his first save.
Key player: New Britain RF Evan Bigley went 2-for-4 with a homer, two RBIs and two runs.
Key play: Bigley's RBI single in the fourth led to a three-run inning that put the Rock Cats on top to stay.
Key stat: New Britain LHP Aaron Thompson, a former Curve and Pirates pitcher, picked up the win in his fourth start after serving a 50-game suspension this season.
How they scored
Top 1st: Herrmann doubled, scored on Arcia single (0-1).
Bottom 1st: Grossman singled, scored on Durham sacrifice fly (1-1); Holt singled, scored on Cabrera single (2-1).
Top 2nd: Bigley solo homer (2-2).
Top 4th: Arcia walked, scored on Bigley single (2-3); Colabello hit by pitch, scored on Hanson single (2-4); Rohlfing double scored Bigley (2-5).
Bottom 4th: Chambers tripled, scored on Maggi single (3-5).