Lloyd McClendon was the first Pirates manager brought back after four consecutive losing seasons. One loss from a fifth such season, the Pirates decided they wanted someone else running the club.

McClendon, an aggressive former player known for his competitiveness and frequent run-ins with umpires, was fired yesterday after averaging more than 90 losses since 2001 for a perennially non-contending team.

Bench coach Pete Mackanin will be the interim manager for the rest of the season.

The talent-thin Pirates, who only this season began a concerted effort to rebuild with youth, were 55-81 going into last night's game against the Diamondbacks and were tied with the Rockies for the NL's worst record.

The Pirates held a club option on McClendon for 2006 and, after an encouraging start that saw them reach .500 at 30-30 on June 11, they talked to him about next season. But they have since lost 51 of 76 games and appear headed for their fourth season of 90 or more losses since 1999, despite having players such as Jason Schmidt, Jason Kendall, Brian Giles and Jason Bay during that time.

"The way we've played the last three months hasn't been up to our capabilities," GM Dave Littlefield said. "We have higher expectations with the players we have. We should be performing better."

"There's no shock, there's no surprise, but it's just an unfortunate day," OF Rob Mackowiak said.

* PITCHING CHANGE: RHP Jae Seo has pitched his way into a permanent spot in the rotation, Mets Manager Willie Randolph said.

Victor Zambrano, who hasn't made a relief appearance since June 2004 with the Devil Rays, will move to the bullpen.

In seven starts this year, Seo is 7-1 with a 1.79 ERA. Seo is 5-0 with a 1.70 ERA in six starts since returning from Class AAA Norfolk last month.

"I think it's best for the team right now," Randolph said. "There's just 25 games to go, and we've got to go for it."

-- From News Services

Lloyd McClendon, above, was replaced on an interim basis by coach Pete Mackanin.