Pirates drop/take two of three against Brewers over the weekend. Read on for a recap and analysis:
Winning Pitcher: Jimmy Nelson (2-1)
Losing Pitcher: Jeff Locke (0-1)
The Pirates dropped their fourth straight contest in the series opener against the Brewers to fall below .500. Pirates’ starter Jeff Locke walked 7 over only 4.2 innings pitched and the Pirates were somewhat lucky to only be down 3-0 when he left the game in the Fifth Inning. The Pirates bullpen could not stop the bleeding again, as Kyle Lobstein gave up a 2-run Home Run from Ryan Braun in the Sixth inning to give the Brewers a 5-0 lead. The Pirates didn’t go quietly though, with Matt Joyce hitting a pinch hit 3-run Home Run in the bottom of the Seventh for his first Home Run as a Pirate. The Pirates weren’t done as they added another run later in the inning off of back-to-back doubles from David Freese and Starling Marte to make it a one run ballgame. Neftali Feliz however, gave up his first runs of the season when Braun hit his second 2-run Home Run of the game in the Eighth inning to give the Brewers a 7-4 lead. The Brewers added another run in the Ninth when A.J. Schugel walked Kirk Nieuwenhuis with the bases loaded and the Pirates provided no further threats to give the Brewers an 8-4 win.
Winning Pitcher: Jon Niese (2-0)
Losing Pitcher: Taylor Jungmann (0-2)
Jon Niese threw seven great innings and the Pirates snapped their four game losing streak with their first shutout win of the season. Niese was able to give the Pirates beleaguered bullpen a break by throwing seven scoreless innings on 96 pitches and only gave up three hits. Tony Watson and Mark Melancon were each able to pitch scoreless frames in the Eighth and Ninth innings respectively, with Melancon striking out the side, to complete the shutout. As for the Pirates offense, after being shut down by Brewers starter Taylor Jungmann for the first three innings, getting no runs on only one hit, they were able to put three runs across in the Fourth inning. Starling Marte and Francisco Cervelli got things started with a double and single respectively that put runners on the corners. Marte then scored what ended up being the winning run on a Gregory Polanco ground out. A Josh Harrison triple then brought Cervelli home and a Jordy Mercer Sacrifice Fly allowed Harrison to complete his circuit and give the Pirates a 3-0 lead. Andrew McCutchen then belted his first Home Run of the season in the Fifth to give the Pirates a 4-0 lead. In the Eighth inning, with Polanco and Cervelli on First and Second base respectively, Harrison singled in Cervelli to provide the final score.
Winning Pitcher: Juan Nicasio (2-1)
Losing Pitcher: Zach Davies (0-1)
The Pirates jumped out to a 6-0 lead early, thanks to a perfect first three innings from Juan Nicasio and a 5 run Third Inning. Nicasio ran into trouble in the Fourth inning though, allowing the Brewers to halve the deficit by giving up 3 runs on 3 hits and 2 walks. Andrew McCutchen gave the Pirates a bit more breathing room in the Fifth inning when he hit a solo Home Run to near dead center that looked like it may have bulls-eyed the loop of the “P” in the Pirates hedge just beyond the wall. Despite his rough Fourth inning, Nicasio was able to pitch the Fifth and Sixth innings without surrendering a run and only allowing two baserunners. Arquimedes Caminero, Neftali Feliz, and Rob Scahill were able to come on after that and close out the game without allowing any more Brewers runs. The final runs of the afternoon came from Sean Rodriguez who hit a 2-run Home Run in the Eighth inning after coming in as a defensive replacement for John Jaso in the Seventh inning.
Pirate of the Series: Josh Harrison
There were several good candidates for Pirate of the Series. John Jaso, the PotS for the previous series had a. 500 OBP for the series and recorded a hit in each game. Andrew McCutchen hit his first Home Run of the season on Saturday night and followed it up with his second the following afternoon. However, this week I’m going to go with Josh Harrison for the Pirate of the Series.
J-Hay got on base in over half of his Plate Appearances over the weekend, going 5 for 11 with 2 walks. Harrison also went the series without striking out, the only player who appeared in the starting lineups this weekend to do this. Harrison’s hits were also timely, going 3 for 7 with Runners in Scoring Position, including hitting a run-scoring Triple in the second game. Harrison also had a Double in the series finale to give him two extra base hits for the series.
Better Start for Juan Nicasio
It was great to see Nicasio have such a good start after getting rocked by the Tigers in his last outing. Nicasio went 6 innings, giving up 3 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks, while striking out 6. In fact, other than his disastrous Fourth inning, he gave up no runs on 2 hits and no walks. From a personal standpoint, Nicasio needed to have a good start, especially since Ryan Vogelsong looked good when filling in for Francisco Liriano. From a standpoint for the team this is excellent as well, with Jeff Locke having such a poor outing in the series opener, the Pirates could really use some stability in the back-end of the rotation, at least until Tyler Glasnow or, more likely, Jameson Taillon make their Major League debuts.
More Home Runs
Coming into this series, the Pirates had had a noticeable lack of power with only 3 Home Runs on the season. This wasn’t unexpected as the Pirates had lost a lot of their Home Run production with the departures of Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker. Though you don’t need to hit a lot of Home Runs to win it certainly makes thing easier and at the very least I think most wanted to see a few more long balls. Well the Pirates delivered to some extent in this series, more than doubling their season total by hitting 4 in the series. Matt Joyce, Andrew McCutchen, and Sean Rodriguez each hit their first Home Runs of the season and McCutchen added his second in the series finale. This output wouldn’t exactly be classified as a power surge, but it is a rate that I think the Pirates can hit at and if they do it will help them win a lot of games. The Pirates OBP philosophy also helps here too as two of the four Home Runs came with runners on base.
Matt Joyce Impresses
Matt Joyce has looked pretty good in a small sample size this season and is looking like another great signing by Neil Huntington. In 12 appearances this season he has gone 6 for 16 with 6 walks and is slashing .375/.545/.625. In this series, he appeared in every game, including getting the start in Right Field in the series finale. For the series he went 4 for 6 with a walk and a Home Run. I would not expect Joyce, or anyone really, to keep these numbers up over a larger sample size, but so far he’s well on his way to rebounding from his awful 2015 with the Los Angeles Angels. It’s also nice to know that Joyce is available to play the outfield, rather than Sean Rodriguez, should any of the starters need to miss a significant amount of time. On a more day-to-day basis it’s also nice to know that he can be plugged in if any of them need a maintenance day, like Starling Marte on Sunday afternoon.
Back on Track?
The Buccos hit a bit of a rough patch over the last week or so after getting off to a hot start to the season. After falling to the Brewers in the series opener on Friday night, the Pirates had fallen below .500 and many were hitting the panic button and already declaring the season over. The last two games the Pirates have looked good, getting quality starts from each of the starters and scoring a combined 14 runs off of 25 hits and hitting 4 Home Runs. One should never generalize from just two games, but one has to hope that the Pirates are out of their funk a bit and that these are the Pirates we’ll see for the rest of the season.
Marte Robbed Home Run
Starling Marte had a nice play to rob a Home Run in the Pirates eventual loss in the series opener. Brewers First Baseman Chris Carter hit a deep fly ball to Left Field that looked like it may go over the wall. Marte was able to get back to the wall and jumped up on it in an attempt to catch it before it went over. Marte seemed to lose track of where the ball was going and had to reach behind himself to actually make the catch. To me that was the impressive thing about the catch, especially since I’m not convinced the ball would have gone over the wall and I believe Marte may have been able to make that catch without climbing up it. Still it was a nice play and something we’ve come to expect from Marte in Left Field.
How about those 1979 throwbacks that the Pirates debuted Sunday afternoon! They looked great out there aesthetically,but the Pirates hammering of the Brewers in the game probably didn’t hurt the impression. I personally am looking forward to seeing them at every Sunday home game this season.
Series Result: Pirates win 2-1
Season Record: 7-6
Series Record: 2-2
Prediction Result: Correctly predicted a Pirates series win (1-3)
Next up: The Pirates travel to San Diego to begin a 10 game road trip out west on Tuesday.