The Pirates take 2 of 3 in crazy series with the Diamondbacks. Read on for a Pirates-Diamondbacks Series Recap:
Game One: Pirates-Diamondbacks Series Recap
Winning Pitcher: Jon Niese (3-0)
Losing Pitcher: Patrick Corbin (1-2)
Save: Mark Melancon (4)
Both teams combined to hit 6 home-runs and the Pirates held for the win, snapping what had been a 5 game winning streak for the Diamondbacks. The Pirates got the scoring started when Sean Rodriguez and Gregory Polanco hit back-to-back Home Runs in the Second inning to give them a 3-0 lead. The Diamondbacks got on the board in the bottom half of the inning when David Peralta hit a solo home-run, but the Pirates got that run back in the Third inning when Jordy Mercer hit a 461 foot Home Run. The Buccos extended their lead later in the inning when Josh Harrison singled in Starling Marte to make it 5-1. The Diamondbacks chipped away at the Pirates lead over the next couple innings, scoring one run in the Third inning and two in the Fourth inning to make it a one run ballgame. Both teams took a break from scoring until the Seventh inning when David Freese got things started for the Bucs with a ground rule double. Mercer walked and back-to-back singles from Andrew McCutchen and Francisco Cervelli brought two runs in to make it 7-4 Pirates. It looked like things were under control for the Pirates when they added another run in the Eighth inning, but Tony Watson ran into trouble getting outs. Wellington Castillo led off the bottom of the Eighth with his second Home Run of the game to make it 8-5. After a Peralta double, it looked like Watson would get out of the inning when he got two quick outs. However, a Mercer throwing error brought Peralta in to score and put Rickie Weeks, Jr. on Second base. Watson’s night was over and Mark Melancon came in to attempt a 4-out save. Melancon got off to a rough start giving up three straight singles that scored a run make it a one run ballgame and loaded the bases. However, Melancon was able to get Yasmany Tomas to bounce out to Third to end the threat and ran into no troubles in the Ninth to secure the Pirates win.
Game Two: Pirates-Diamondbacks Series Recap
Winning Pitcher: Rubby De La Rosa (2-3)
Losing Pitcher: Juan Nicasio (2-2)
The first seven innings of this game was an unexpected pitchers dual, with the Diamondbacks holding a 2-1 lead for the majority of the game. The Pirates got the first run of the game in the form of a solo Home Run from Sean Rodriguez in the Second inning. The lead wouldn’t last long as the Diamondbacks tied the game in the home half of the inning when Chris Herrmann doubled Nick Ahmed home. The Diamondbacks then took the lead in the next inning when David Peralta hit a solo Home Run. That was it for the scoring, as both teams went hitless until the Seventh inning. In the Pirates’ half of the inning they were able to put runners on Second and Third base, but were unable to get any runs out of the opportunity. The Diamondbacks then blew the game open when they scored 5 runs in the Eighth inning off of Pirates reliever A.J. Schugel. After three singles and a David Freese error, the Diamondbacks had a 4-1 lead with runners on Second and Third base. That was when Herrmann struck again, this time hitting a 3-run Home Run to put the game out of reach for the Pirates. The Pirates went quietly in the Ninth inning going down in order. The Pirates finished with only 4 hits, tied for a season low and only one of three games this season in which the Pirates failed to get 8 hits.
Game Three: Pirates-Diamondbacks Series Recap
Winning Pitcher: Neftali Feliz (1-0)
Losing Pitcher: Evan Marshall (0-1)
Save: Arquimedes Caminero (1)
Paul Goldschmidt opened the scoring for this game with a solo Home Run in the bottom of the First inning, but it was only the beginning to what would turn into a long evening. The Pirates got on the board when Jason Rogers got his first hit as a Pirate, a 2-run Triple that put the Pirates up. Sean Rodriguez singled in the next at bat to bring Rogers in and the Pirates had a 3-1 lead. It wouldn’t last as the very next inning Wellington Castillo dinged a 3-run Home Run off the left field foul pole to make it 4-3 Diamondbacks. The Pirates were able to chase starter Robbie Ray in the very next inning though when they opened the inning with back-to-back singles. Ray took 84 pitches to get through 3+ innings against the Pirates and gave up 8 hits. The Pirates got to reliever Tyler Wagner early, ultimately scoring 5 runs in the inning to open up an 8-4 lead, but with two on and one out Wagner was able to get back-to-back strikeouts to end the inning. Wagner settled down from there and didn’t let the Pirates mount a serious scoring threat the rest of his time on the mound. Meanwhile, other than the Castillo Home Run, Liriano was cruising, looking better than he had in his previous couple starts, never allowing the Diamondbacks to seriously mount a threat either. Unfortunately, he would be denied the opportunity at the win. Ryan Vogelsong pitched a scoreless Seventh inning in relief, but gave up a solo Home Run to Yasmany Tomas and walked Castillo in the next at-bat. Tony Watson was brought in and got two quick outs before giving up a Chris Owings triple to bring in Castillo and make it 8-6. It was now a save situation, and since some habits die-hard, Clint Hurdle went to Mark Melancon to finish out the game. Melancon gave up a one out single to Brandon Drury to bring up Paul Goldschmidt as the tying run. Goldschmidt delivered belting a 2-run Home Run to make it 8-8. Melancon got out of the inning with back-to-back strikeouts, but the game was going to extra innings.
The Diamondbacks threatened in the 10th inning, with Jake Lamb, representing the winning run, being thrown out at home on a fielder’s choice. The Pirates didn’t do much until the 12th inning when Francisco Cervelli, the last man off the Pirates bench, opened the inning with a single. However, it looked like the inning would be going nowhere again when Cervelli, now on Second base, was thrown out at third after attempting to advance off an errant pickoff attempt. However, Andrew McCutchen walked and David Freese delivered with a run-scoring double. Freese himself was scored when Starling Marte singled into Left Field to make it 10-8 Pirates. Marte was thrown out trying to stretch his single into a double though, and the Diamondbacks were set up for their second last chance. The Diamondbacks made the most of it again, in an inning that saw a pitcher (Zach Greinke), not only pinch-hit for another pitcher (Tyler Clippard), but get on base and have another pitcher (Shelby Miller) pinch-run for him due to lack of bench players. The Diamondbacks tied the game again when David Peralta doubled with two on, including the aforementioned pitcher pinch-running, to bring one run in, and Jean Segura singled to bring in another. Reliever Neftali Feliz was able to get out of the inning with two strikeouts sandwiched around an intentional walk of Paul Goldschmidt. The Pirates opened the 13th inning with a hit again when Josh Harrison doubled. Sean Rodriguez followed that up when he hit a double over the head of pitcher Shelby Miller, who was now playing the Outfield, off the Left Field wall to bring Harrison home for the go-ahead run. Jon Niese was now brought into the game, only two days after picking up the win in the series opener, to pinch-hit for Neftali Feliz. Niese delivered getting the second hit of the day by a pinch-hitting pitcher and scoring Rodriguez to make it 12-10. Arquimedes Caminero was brought in to finally try to close this one out and was given a gift when the Diamondbacks were forced to send two pitchers to the plate in the inning. He struck out Patrick Corbin (who had picked up the loss in the series opener) and Shelby Miller to bring this game to a merciful end and give the Pirates the win and the series victory.
Pirate of the Series: Sean Rodriguez
When the Pirates re-signed Sean Rodriguez this offseason, I was not a huge fan. Though it was assumed he could finally play the super-utility role that the Pirates had originally intended for him, now that he hopefully wouldn’t need to be used so often as a late innings defensive replacement at First base (about that?), I believed there were better options than Rodriguez. This was a player who last season slashed .246/.281/.362, struck out 26.3% of the time, and was worth -0.2 WAR. Sure enough the Pirates made more signings over the offseason that appeared to push Rodriguez deeper down the bench (David Freese and Matt Joyce). It seemed to me that once Jung Ho Kang returned, Rodriguez’s biggest role on this team may be to protect them from water coolers. However, Rodriguez has made the most of his limited opportunities thus far and was given the opportunity to play that super-utility role this series, getting starts at Third Base, Shortstop, and Second Base, while still being utilized as a late-innings defensive replacement at First Base in two games.
Rodriguez went 5 for 14 in the series, good but not fantastic, and he also had 4 strikeouts to go along with those. However, Rodriguez’s hits were big hits and they were timely. In the series opener he went 2 for 4, with a Home Run. His Home Run was a 2-run Home Run that opened the scoring for the game and his other hit was a single that scored Josh Harrison for what would prove to be the winning run. In the middle game of the series he hit another Home Run, his team leading 3rd Home Run of the season, to provide the only run in the Pirates’ loss. Finally he came up big in two spots on Sunday, singling in Jason Rogers early in the game to make it 3-1 Pirates and hitting a double off the Left Field wall, which was close to being his 4th Home Run, that scored what would prove to be the winning run.
For 2016 Rodriguez is currently slashing .375/.500/.833 and has walked in 20% of his plate appearances. Before anyone gets too excited, these numbers are going to go down. For one he’s only had 30 plate appearances this season, no player keeps a slashline like that up over the course of an entire season. For another, it’s Sean Rodriguez. His career slashline is .230/.298/.377 and his walk rate is 6.6% and has been decreasing every season since 2011. His BABIP is also an absurd .429, that number is going to regress quickly. I guess what I’m trying to say is enjoy this while it lasts, because his numbers will likely be returning to earth soon. This of course isn’t to say that they’ll necessarily plummet to the levels we saw last season. In fact I would take a return to the 2013 version of Sean Rodriguez who slashed .246/.320/.385 and walked 7.7% of the time. I think replicating those stats would be realistic hope for Sean Rodriguez to achieve this season.
Takeaways, Observations, and other Random Thoughts from the Pirates-Diamondbacks Series Recap
Cutch Still Struggling: Pirates-Diamondbacks Series Recap
It looks like we’re all going to have to wait a little longer for Andrew McCutchen to break out of his slump. This series he went 2 for 14 with 7 strikeouts and only one walk. For the season he is now slashing .213/.337/.347. His BABIP is still low at .269, so his average is still due to rebound. What is worrisome now is his strikeout rate. For the season he has struck out in 23.6% of plate appearances, compared with a 17.4% rate for his career. He has 89 plate appearances, which is generally enough for strikeout rates to stabilize, which is why this rate is worrisome. I still expect his strikeout rate to decrease, it just may not get down to his career rate and may hover around 20% this season. Maybe a trip to hitter-friendly Coors Field is just what McCutchen needs to snap out of this funk.
Not unexpectedly, it was brutal to watch Pirates pitching this weekend. With a pitching staff that is underperforming compared to what the Pirates have produced in recent years and a heavy hitting Diamondbacks team I was expecting this. The Pirates ended up giving up at total of 24 runs over the 3 games, 21 of them earned. This worked out to an overall ERA of 6.10. It’s not gonna get any better with a depleted bullpen from Sunday’s game and a shift in scenery to an even more hitter-friendly park in Colorado. One thing that the pitchers should have more control over though is the number of walks issued. Currently, Pirates pitchers as a whole have issued 88 walks, second only to the Cincinnati Reds (89) and 11 more than the 3rd place team (Arizona Diamondbacks).
Francisco Liriano: Pirates-Diamondbacks Series Recap
The bright side of the otherwise forgettable pitching this weekend was the good start from Francisco Liriano. After getting roughed up in his last couple starts and missing one due to injury, it was nice to see Liriano only give up 5 hits over 6 innings. In fact the only runs he surrendered came off Home Run and as mentioned before, Wellington Castillo’s 3-run shot was nearly foul. Liriano struck out 6 and only issued 3 walks during his time on the mound, not career-bests by any means but encouraging to see nonetheless. Having a consistently good Liriano is very important to the success of the Pirates given the uncertainty and lack of depth on the pitching staff as a whole.
Diamondbacks’ Home Runs: Pirates-Diamondbacks Series Recap
Coming into this series I expected the Diamondbacks to hit a lot of Home Runs and score a lot of their runs off the long ball. The Diamondbacks ended up finishing the series with 9 total Home Runs. They had multiple Home Runs in every game and averaged 3 per contest. Additionally, they scored 14 of their 24 total runs for the series off those Home Runs. These are impressive numbers, but they still fell within the realm of what I expected. Luckily the Pirates did a reasonably good job of keeping the bases empty so that minimal damage was done. 6 of the Home Runs were solo shots, but 3 did come with runners on, including the 2-run Home Run hit by Paul Goldschmidt that tied the game in the bottom of the Ninth of the series finale.
Pirates-Diamondbacks Series Recap Result: Pirates win 2-1
Season Record after Pirates-Diamondbacks Series Recap: 10-9
Series Record: 3-3
Prediction Result: Incorrectly predicted a Pirates series loss (1-5)
Next up: The Pirates finish their western road trip when they visit the Colorado Rockies for a 4 game series beginning Monday.