Pittsburgh Pirates Win Five Straight, but End Week with Series Loss
The Pittsburgh Pirates (take care of business against lesser competition at home this week/have winning record over past week, but drop 2 of 3 to Rockies over the weekend). Read on for recaps and some analysis:
Record over Last Week: 5-2
Overall Record: 28-21 (2nd in NL Central)
May 23: Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Colorado Rockies
Winning Pitcher: Wilfredo Boscan (1-0)
Losing Pitcher: Jordan Lyles (1-2)
Save: Mark Melancon (15)
The Pirates and Rockies played a makeup game on Monday afternoon after getting rained out Sunday and having a mutual scheduled day off on this day. The Pirates started well, building a 6-0 lead through the first three innings. However, during the bottom of the second inning the Pirates were dealt a setback when Ryan Vogelsong, making a spot start, was hit in the head by a pitch.
Vogelsong collapsed but was able to sit up before being carted off the field and taken to the hospital. He would be released later in the week, but placed on the 15-day disabled list and it is currently unknown if and when he will rejoin the Pirates. In the meantime, recent call-up Wilfredo Boscan came in, gave up two runs over four innings and picked up the win.
May 24: Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Arizona Diamondbacks
Winning Pitcher: Francisco Liriano (4-3)
Losing Pitcher: Shelby Miller (1-6)
Gregory Polanco got a big night for the Pirates offense going early with a three-run home run in the first inning. The Pirates would double that lead in a three run third inning to take a 6-0 lead. The Diamondbacks would get on the board in the sixth inning when Francisco Liriano walked in a run, but the Pirates would add another three runs in their half of the inning to take a 9-1 lead.
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The real story of this game came at this point when Arquimedes Caminero came into the game and proceeded to hit two Diamondbacks’ batters in 1 2/3 innings pitched. It is generally assumed that these actions were unintentional and were the result of Caminero’s poor control. Nonetheless Caminero was ejected from the game and the Pirates would go on to win 12-1.
May 25: Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Arizona Diamondbacks
Winning Pitcher: Jeff Locke (3-3)
Losing Pitcher: Rubby De La Rosa (4-5)
Save: Mark Melancon (16)
The Diamondbacks jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but the Pirates were able to come back for the win thanks to a four run fifth inning. The Diamondbacks got their first three runs thanks to a run-scoring double from Chris Owings and Yasmany Tomas subsequently hitting a two-run home run in the second inning.
Sean Rodriguez got the Pirates on the board in the fourth inning with his fifth home run of the season to make it 3-1 Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks got that run back in the top of the fifth inning when Rickie Weeks Jr. hit a home run as well to make it 4-1. However, the Pirates exploded for four runs in their half of the inning. The Pirates had already made it a one run game when David Freese put the Pirates up for good with a two-run home run to make it 5-4. Neither team would score the remainder of the game and the Pirates would win.
May 26: Pirates vs. Diamondbacks
Winning Pitcher: A.J. Schugel (1-1)
Losing Pitcher: Patrick Corbin (2-4)
Gerrit Cole didn’t have his best start, going only five innings and giving up seven hits and walking three, but he only allowed one unearned run. His most significant contribution actually probably came from the plate when he hit a three-run home run to give the Pirates a 3-1 lead in the second inning. The Diamondbacks would tie it up in the sixth inning though on Paul Goldschmidt’s two-run single. The Pirates would score the go-ahead runs in the bottom half of the inning via Josh Harrison’s two-run double. The Pirates added three more runs in the eighth inning to provide the final score of 8-3.
May 27: Pirates @ Rangers
Winning Pitcher: Jon Niese (5-2)
Losing Pitcher: Cole Hamels (5-1)
The Pirates were able to hit the previously undefeated Rangers starter Cole Hamels pretty hard and force him out after only 4 2/3 innings pitched. Starling Marte got the scoring going in the second inning with the first of four Pirate home runs on the day. The Pirates broke the game open in the fifth inning, with Andrew McCutchen and David Freese each hitting run-scoring singles followed up with a Jung Ho Kang three-run home run to cap off a five run inning.
Andrew McCutchen would hit a home run in the sixth inning to give the Pirates a 7-0 lead and Adrian Beltre would hit another in the home half of the inning to provide the only scoring of the game for the Rangers. Gregory Polanco would hit a two-run home run to finish off the scoring in the ninth inning and provide an exclamation point on the Pirates’ five game winning streak.
May 21: Pirates @ Rangers
Winning Pitcher: Yu Darvish (1-0)
Losing Pitcher: Juan Nicasio (4-4)
The Pirates were unable to spoil Yu Darvish’s return to baseball, with the Rangers’ Japanese ace giving up only one run while striking out seven over five innings pitched and 81 pitches. Meanwhile, Pirates’ starter Juan Nicasio struggled, giving up two home runs and four earned runs taking 105 pitches to get through 4 2/3 innings. The Rangers jumped out to a 4-0 lead through four innings before Cole Figueroa got the Pirates on the board with his run-scoring single in the fifth. The Rangers would add a run in the seventh to make it 5-1 and, while the Pirates scored in the ninth it was too little too late as they fell 5-2 to end their winning streak.
May 22: Pirates @ Rangers
Winning Pitcher: Francisco Liriano (4-4)
Losing Pitcher: Martin Perez (3-4)
The Pirates opened up the scoring early when Jordy Mercer and Andrew McCutchen opened the game with back-to-back doubles to make it 1-0. They would double that lead in the third inning thanks to David Freese’s solo home run. Unfortunately, Pirates’ batters did little else the rest of the game and a four run fourth inning, featuring two home runs was enough for the Rangers. They would add single runs in the sixth and seventh innings to provide the final score.
Pirate of the Week: Gregory Polanco
Gregory Polanco had a great week this week getting at least one hit in every game from Monday through Saturday, while getting the day off on Sunday. His best game of the week was likely the Pirates’ 12-1 drubbing of the Diamondbacks on Tuesday night. In that game Polanco went 3 for 5, hitting a three-run home run in the first inning to kick off the scoring. He also hit a two-run double in the sixth, his 17th of the season, and came a triple shy of the cycle. Overall for the week, Polanco went 10 for 26 with two home runs and two doubles.
Gregory Polanco is now slashing .311/.379/.596 on the season with a .974 OPS and is clearly having a breakout season after a mediocre first year and a half to his career. Though many were expressing concern over this time, many seemed to forget that Polanco was still young and needed time to adjust to Major League pitching.
The signs were also pointing to a breakout season after he had a good second half last season. However, I don’t think many, including myself, were expecting him to be performing at the level that he has thus far this season. According to Fangraphs WAR calculation, he already has 2.4 this season, while he only had 2.3 all of last season. While I would not be surprised to see Polanco’s numbers go down slightly, due to a .358 BABIP, the 24 year old right fielder has brought to fruition the “dream outfield” that Pirates fans have been eagerly anticipating for several years now through his play this season.
Takeaways, Observations, and other Random Thoughts
Arquimedes Caminero to the Disabled List
The removal of Arquimedes Caminero from the active roster has been a long time coming. The Pirates could not simply send him to Indianapolis due to Caminero being out of options, so the only other way they could have removed him from the active roster would have been to designate him for assignment.
For whatever reason the Pirates would not do this, despite there being options in Indianapolis to replace him with. My theory is that the Pirates did not want to risk losing him to another team due to his high velocity. However, he has had terrible control this season compared to last and needs to sort some things out if he ever wants to pitch at the Major League level again, something I think is highly unlikely to happen in Pittsburgh right now.
It was great to see the Pirates sweep the Diamondbacks’ out of PNC Park. Despite a disappointing start to the season, they are always a dangerous team with their power hitters. I fully expected the Pirates to get outslugged in at least one of the games, but the Pirates ended up being the ones to do the outslugging overall. Even in the second game, when it looked for awhile like it just wouldn’t be the Pirates’ night, they came out and had one good inning that as enough to get the win.
Next: Sabermetrics Sunday: FIP
Ryan Vogelsong Injury
I’m going to preface this by saying that I’m glad Ryan Vogelsong seems to be okay after getting hit in the eye by that pitch in his spot start against the Rockies on Monday afternoon. It was a scary moment and most unfortunate as Vogelsong normally pitches out of the bullpen and would ordinarily never be batting. However, I think Wilfredo Boscan will be a suitable replacement for Vogelsong as a long relief/spot start option during his stint on the disabled list, as he was after coming in to replace him in the game.
Unfortunately for the 38 year old Vogelsong, I think this may be the end of the road for him. Even if he recovers enough to pitch this season I’m not sure there will be spot for him on the team at that point. Jameson Taillon will likely be coming to Pittsburgh in mid-June. This would push Juan Nicasio to the bullpen in the long relief/spot start role, leaving Vogelsong as the odd man out. I wish him a speedy recovery, but I would be surprised to see Vogelsong pitch for the Pittsburgh Pirates again.
Jon Niese Continues to Pitch Well
Jon Niese made his fourth straight quality start on Friday night against the Rangers, solidifying his spot in the rotation for when Jameson Taillon presumably joins the team next month. Niese was not actually in any danger of this happening with Locke and Nicasio also in the rotation, but it is encouraging to have who was meant to be the Pittsburgh Pirates third starter pitch like it after a rough beginning to the season.
In his last three starts, Niese has had a ground ball rate over 60% in each and has only given up two home runs in 19 innings. Niese has seemed to be a much better pitcher since his meltdown against the Cubs at the beginning of the month. Whether there was a change in his approach, he did something to reset, or if this is just a regression to the mean is unknown right now. However, Niese generally pitching like this the rest of the season will go a long way towards providing a stable rotation and combined with the arrival of Taillon makes the pitching staff as a whole much better.
Coming up this week: The Pittsburgh Pirates finish their road trip with four games in Miami before coming back to Pittsburgh to face the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
*Stats courtesy of Fangraphs, espn.com, mlb.com, and Baseball Reference