Pirates drop three of four to Tigers in inter-city series. Read on for a recap and analysis:
Winning Pitcher: Jon Niese (1-0)
Losing Pitcher: Justin Verlander (0-1)
Save: Mark Melancon (3)
The Pirates finally got some hits with runners in scoring position and the Pirates took the series opener against the Tigers 7-4. The Pirates built up a 7-1 lead by scoring in each of the first five innings and had a season-high 17 hits on the game. The Pirates kicked the scoring off in the first inning when Matt Joyce, getting the start as the Designated Hitter, singled in John Jaso. Jordy Mercer then delivered with the bases loaded in the Second inning scoring two runs off a single. After a Nick Castellanos Home Run to get the Tigers on the board, the Pirates added two runs with sacrifice flies from Jaso and Francisco Cervelli in the third and fourth innings. A Starling Marte double and a Cervelli single put runners on the corners in the Fifth inning to finally knock Justin Verlander out of the game. Tigers reliever Drew VerHagen promptly gave up a Gregory Polanco double, walked Josh Harrison, and a Sean Rodriguez single to make it 7-1 Pirates. VerHagen was able to stop the bleeding by getting Jordy Mercer to ground into an inning ending double play. The Tigers were able to make it a ballgame off a J.D. Martinez Home Run in the bottom of the Fifth and a two-run Sixth inning to make it 7-4 Pirates, but they never got closer than that. Neftali Feliz pitched a perfect Seventh inning and Tony Watson and Mark Melancon allowed only one baserunner each in their frames to give Jon Niese his win in a Pirates’ uniform.
Winning Pitcher: Anibal Sanchez (2-0)
Losing Pitcher: Juan Nicasio (1-1)
After a stellar spring training and first start, Juan Nicasio may have come back to earth somewhat lasting only three innings against the Tigers. While he did strike out 4 in those three innings, he also walked five and gave up six hits and allowed 4 earned runs to put the Pirates down 4-0 after only two innings and in an early hole. It looked like the Pirates may have been able to dig themselves out of the hole in the Sixth inning when Starling Marte hit a 2-run Home Run, his second of the season, to bring the Pirates within two, but any hope of a comeback was quickly squashed. Kyle Lobstein, who had been brought in to replace Nicasio, now in his third inning of work quickly ran into trouble giving up back-to-back singles to lead off the inning. After getting Miguel Cabrera to fly out, Victor and J.D. Martinez hit back-to-back doubles scoring three runs total to make it 7-2 Tigers. Ian Kinsler added a solo Home Run in the Seventh inning to make it 8-2 and the Pirates offense made no dent in the Tigers lead the rest of the game.
Winning Pitcher: Shane Greene (1-0)
Losing Pitcher: Arquimedes Caminero (0-2)
With Francisco Liriano ailing, Ryan Vogelsong was called on to make his first start for the Pirates since the Dark Years (also known as Dave Littlefield era). Vogelsong looked good in his start only giving up one run over 5 innings and leaving the mound with the Pirates ahead 2-1. Unfortunately Arquimedes Caminero gave up a Grand Slam to Jarrod Saltalamacchia with two outs in the Sixth inning to give the Tigers a 5-2 lead. The Pirates added a run in the Eighth inning, but the Tigers put the game effectively out of reach with two more runs in the Ninth to provide the final score. The Pirates had taken an early lead in the first inning when Francisco Cervelli walked with the bases loaded and Gregory Polanco grounded into a Fielder’s Choice, but the Tigers starter Shane Greene settled down from there and shut the Pirates down.
Winning Pitcher: Jordan Zimmerman (2-0)
Losing Pitcher: Gerrit Cole (0-2)
Save: Francisco Rodriguez (2)
The Pirates couldn’t capitalize on 14 hits and a good outing from Cole, losing to the Tigers and the series and falling to .500 on the season. Cole finished the day giving up only 2 runs on 4 hits in six innings and survived being nearly decapitated by a line drive. Despite all of that, the Pirates offense couldn’t provide enough offense and Cole got the loss for his efforts. After Rob Scahill, who had just been called up from Indianapolis, gave up two runs to put the Tigers up 4-0, the Pirates were able to stage a mini-rally in their half of the Seventh. With two outs the Pirates were able to score three runs with the help of two infield singles. However, the Tigers were able to extend their lead in the Eighth when they got three runs off of Tony Watson to make it 7-3. The Pirates were able to add a run in their half of the Eighth when David Freese doubled in Andrew McCutchen, but it wasn’t enough.
Pirate of the Series: John Jaso
Like the Cincinnati series, there wasn’t too much positive to take out of this series. A lot of players got a lot of hits, but as I’ll discuss more below, the Pirates still didn’t score a lot of runs. I considered giving it to David Freese this series after he went 6 for 12 and didn’t strike out at all in this series after striking out so much in the first two series’ of the season. However, Freese did not start in the only game of the series that the Pirates won and only appeared as a late innings defensive replacement. Because of this I could not bring myself to give it to him. In the end I decided to give it to a favorite of this blog: John Jaso.
Jaso went 6 for 13 in the series, getting most of that from going 2 for 4 in the series opener and 3 for 5 in the series finale. In addition to getting a double in the series opener, he also added a run by hitting a sacrifice fly. He also added a double in the series finale to bring his total in that category for the season up to 4. In addition to his work as a leadoff man from the plate, he is also looking more and more comfortable manning first base in his first season at the position. He certainly looks better than a certain designated-hitter-who-shall-not-be-named that now plays in Baltimore did at the position. If Jaso can keep this up, then the Pirates should be in pretty good shape at the top of the lineup for the foreseeable future.
On the flip side, Ryan Vogelsong, whose presumptive spot in the rotation Nicasio took, looked pretty good in the third game of the series. With Francisco Liriano bumped from his scheduled start with Hamstring discomfort, Vogelsong was in line to fill in. Though the Pirates lost, Vogelsong left the game after five innings with the Pirates up 2-1 and in line for the win. One Jarrod Saltalamacchia Grand Slam later and that went out the window, but Vogelsong was not the reason they lost that game, as I had would be the case before the game. In his five innings of work, Vogelsong gave up only 4 hits and struck out 5 while walking none. The one run he did give up did come on a Home Run though. Vogelsong was also efficient getting through his five innings in only 66 pitches. This doesn’t really change my opinion on Vogelsong, that he should be relegated to the bullpen and maybe gone when Glasnow/Taillon come up, but it was nice to see he still may have something left in the tank.
There were a lot of Home Runs in this series, unfortunately the Pirates didn’t hit most of them. There were 8 Home Runs in this series, an average of 2 per game, and the Pirates only hit one of them. I had mentioned before this series that the Tigers could mash the ball and everyone knew the Pirates weren’t going to hit a ton of Home Runs. However, it was still not fun to see the Tigers out-Homer the Pirates in this series to such a degree. Hopefully, the Pirates bats will wake up soon. There have been some close calls and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Buccos go on a modest Home Run tear soon.
The Bullpen was not great in this series. In 15 innings pitched they combined to have a WHIP of 2.07 and an ERA of 9.00. They also gave up three Home Runs. Arquimedes Caminero was brought in with a lead in the third game. After getting two quick outs, he proceeded to load the bases and give up a Grand Slam to Jarrod Saltalamacchia. In the second game, after the Pirates had closed the gap to 4-2, any serious hope of a comeback was lost when Kyle Lobstein surrendered three runs on four hits. Even Tony Watson had an uncharacteristically poor outing in the series finale, giving up 3 runs off of two hits, including a Home Run, and a walk. Watson and Mark Melancon have been generally themselves, and Neftali Feliz has been a pleasant surprise, but outside these big three it’s pretty apparent that there’s a steep drop-off in the quality of the bullpen. This should be alleviated somewhat when Jared Hughes returns from the Disabled List.
The Pirates went .302 with Runners in Scoring Position during that series. Since RISP has been a bit of a focus for the fanbase this season so far, I figured I should give an update on these numbers. Despite these improved numbers the Pirates still lost 3 of 4, so I’m guessing we’re gonna have to endure more yinzers coming out complaining about the Pirates getting rid of Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker.
Series Result: 1-3
Season Record: 5-5
Series Record: 1-2
Prediction Result: Incorrectly predicted a tied series (0-3)
Next up: The Pirates welcome the Brewers for a 3 game weekend series beginning Friday night