Pittsburgh Pirates Wake-Up Call – A frustrating loss
By Tyler Waite
Welcome to the Pittsburgh Pirates Wake-Up Call, a new daily feature here at RumBunter.com. Every morning at 9 AM, one of us will give you our random thoughts on the goings-on around the Pirates’ organization, and we’ll throw a few links to some good articles from around the web concerning our baseball team as well.
I’ll outline some of the reasons below, but the one word that comes to mind when I think of last night’s Pirates-Cardinals game is frustrating. It seemed like the Pirates could get lucky and pull out a win in a game started by Jeff Locke, but for some reason Clint Hurdle let him stay out there and get pummeled in the fifth inning, and then the team proceeded to get shut out the rest of the way. With a bullpen that’s fully rested, why not go to it earlier? Oh well. The Pirates can still take the series with their top two pitchers on the mound the next two nights, so there’s hope yet!
Hurdle has to know when to pull Locke
This was the most frustrating part of last night. It seemed like the we all knew what the mindset for the Pirates had to be going into game one of the series. If the Pirates had a lead early on with Locke pitching, they needed to take advantage of this and use a well-rested bullpen to steal this game. Well Hurdle didn’t do this, and the Cardinals capitalized, scoring three runs in the fifth off of Locke and turned a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 Cardinal lead. And Hurdle didn’t even start warming up the pen until Locke was already in serious trouble. Especially against the Cardinals, the Pirates have to be proactive, not reactionary, but that was not the case, and they paid for it.
We all know what Locke is. He’s a below average pitcher that has the very occasional great outing that has been the sole reason for keeping him in the rotation for the past few seasons. To be honest, it was remarkable that the pitching matchup ended up playing out as evenly as it did. It’s unfortunate that the Pirates didn’t take advantage of that.
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The strike zone seemed inconsistent
We talked about this more in depth in our reaction podcast on Rum Bunter Radio, but it seemed like the Pirates were getting frustrated with an expanded and inconsistent strike zone against the Cardinals. After I mentioned that Andrew McCutchen had an off night, one of our writers mentioned on the podcast that it may have been because he couldn’t figure out the strike zone. He was swinging at some outside pitches and when we finally took a few pitches, they were for strikes. And we saw Neil Walker‘s anger boil over in the 9th inning when he was called out looking on a pitch that wasn’t even close to the strike zone.
This becomes a big problem when arguably the best catcher in baseball in Yadier Molina is behind the dish. He’s a fantastic pitch framer, and definitely took advantage of this expanded strike zone, frequently setting up outside, knowing that his team had a good chance to get a strike call on a outside pitch. It’s one thing if an ump has an expanded strike zone and is consistent about it. It’s another if he’s inconsistent. The latter isn’t good and frustrates players and fans alike.
Above all else, don’t fret!
The Pirates still have an opportunity to take the series from the Cardinals behind Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano in the next two days. The Cardinals’ offense is very average this year, and although this loss was a tough one to swallow, the Cardinals still only won by one run and only managed to score four runs in a game started by Jeff Locke. Cole and Liriano could very well hold them to one or two runs, and the Pirates hopefully should be able to score more than that with their offense.
They’re more than capable of winning the next two games and picking up a game on the Cardinals. It’s not time time to panic just yet.
Around the Web
If you’re not too depressed about last night’s loss, here are some good pieces about the Pirates that you should definitely check out.
Rob Biertempfel of the Trib notes that Starling Marte is becoming one of the best defensive players in all of baseball. Hint: he leads the Pirates in DWAR.
Joe Starkey also put out a piece for the Trib and addresses what a lot of us fans have been thinking. There are a lot of intriguing questions that this Pirates team, despite its record, faces down the stretch. Check it out here.
And Adam Bittner of the Post-Gazette makes an important point. The Pirates can’t leave their postseason hopes to chance in a one-game Wild Card playoff. It’s a great read.
That’s it for our Pittsburgh Pirates Wake-Up Call today. Hopefully Gerrit Cole can help take game two on national television tonight.
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