Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 5, Pittsburgh Pirates 4: Stars And Stiffs

Jun 5, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang (27) singles against the Los Angeles Angels during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 5, 2016; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Jung Ho Kang (27) singles against the Los Angeles Angels during the fifth inning at PNC Park. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Pittsburgh Pirates are in a slump. With Sunday’s 5-4 loss to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the Bucs have now lost seven of their last nine games.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are currently in their worst funk of the season. The Pirates have no lost three straight series, seven of nine games, and this now included a bad home series loss to a poor Angels team. Sunday’s game was probably the worst loss of them all during this stretch due to the way it played out.

The Pittsburgh Pirates to a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the second inning, and would remain in the lead until the eighth inning. However, the usually reliable Tony Watson would meltdown for a second consecutive day blowing the lead. Furthermore, the Pittsburgh Pirates wasted a golden opportunity in the ninth inning to tie the game if not win it. Anyway, here are the Pittsburgh Pirates three stars and stiffs from Sunday’s loss.

STARS

Shortstop Jordy Mercer – On Sunday afternoon Jordy Mercer played a huge role in what looked like would be a Pittsburgh Pirates victory. At the plate Mercer went 1-for-3 with a double, two walks, and a run scored. Mercer continues to get on base at a great rate as his on base percentage for the seasons has climbed to .359.

Jordy Mercer also made a pair of great defensive plays on Sunday. In the top of the eighth with Kole Calhoun on first base and no one out, Mike Trout hit a blooper to left-center field that Mercer tracked down after covering a lot of ground to make a great basket catch on. Then in the top of the ninth, Mercer made a great leaping grab on a line drive hit by Yunel Escobar to rob the Angels’ third baseman of a RBI and to end the inning. 

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Third baseman Jung Ho Kang – Is it great to have Jung Ho Kang or what? The Bucco third baseman went 2-for-4 with a double and a RBI on Sunday afternoon. Kang’s RBI came when he got plunked in the ankle with the bases loaded and two outs in the second inning.

Overall on the season Kang now has 22 RBI in just 24 games played. That’s a very good ratio. Kang also has a .418 wOBA and a 169 wRC+ on the season. Jung Ho Kang is proving that he is 100 percent recovered from offseason surgery, and that his phenomenal rookie season was no fluke.

Left fielder Gregory Polanco – The Pittsburgh Pirates budding superstar had another strong game on Sunday afternoon. Polanco went 1-for-3 with a pair of walks and a RBI. Polanco’s RBI came with the bases loaded in the second inning, to break a 1-1 tie.

Polanco’s walk to load the bases was an excellent one. He got ahead of Angels’ left-handed pitcher Hector Santiago 3-0 by laying off a pair of breaking pitches down and away, the count got full at 3-2, and then Polanco drew a bases loaded walk by once again laying off a breaking pitch down and away.

Prior to this season, Polanco would have undoubtedly been hacking at these breaking pitches down and away from a left-handed pitcher. Polanco has a team leading 29 walks this season, and is quickly becoming the Pittsburgh Pirates best all-around player. One of the things driving this is how much improvement and maturation he has shown against left-handed pitching this season.

STIFFS

Relief pitcher Tony Watson – After struggling in April, Tony Watson appeared to have figured things out. Prior to Thursday, Watson had allowed just three base hits in the past six weeks. However, in his last three outings Tony Watson has now allowed seven runs in 2 1/3 innings pitched.

Tony Watson took over in the top of the eighth inning with the Pittsburgh Pirates leading by a score of 4-3. With one out and Kole Calhoun on first base, Albert Pujols stepped to the plate and mashed a go ahead two-run home run to left field off of Tony Watson. This home run by Pujols would prove to be the game winner.

On the season, Watson’s numbers are ugly. In 24 innings pitched Tony Watson now has a 4.50 ERA, 5.04 FIP, 4.63 xFIP, and is averaging 3.75 BB/9 and 1.50 HR/9. The time has come for Neftali Feliz to replace Tony Watson as Mark Melancon‘s setup man.

First baseman Sean Rodriguez – So far this season Sean Rodriguez had been a much better hitter than the past few seasons, but Sunday afternoon was not one of those games. Sean Rodriguez went 0-for-5 on Sunday afternoon. Furthermore, Rodriguez left six men on base on Sunday afternoon.

In the bottom of the fifth inning with Jung Ho Kang on third base and just one out, Sean Rodriguez grounded out to third base with the infield in forcing Kang to stay at third base. Then in the ninth inning the Angels intentionally walked Starling Marte to load the bases with one out for Rodriguez. This proved to be a smart decision by Angels manager Mike Scioscia as Rodriguez hit into a game ending double play.

Second baseman Josh Harrison – Despite picking up a RBI, Josh Harrison went just 1-for-5 at the plate on Sunday. The biggest problem came when Josh Harrison popped out to shortstop with the bases loaded and just one out in the bottom of the second inning. Even though the Pittsburgh Pirates still scored two runs that inning, a base hit or sacrifice fly by Harrison in that situation could have made a big difference in a one run game.

Next: Sabermetric Sunday: xFIP

That will do it for today. There is no way around it, Sunday afternoon was a bad loss for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Luckily for the Bucs, this is baseball and they get to shower this loss off and go play again tomorrow.

Moving forward though, the Pittsburgh Pirates need to play better. The Bucs have lost seven of nine, and have the toughest stretch of their schedule all season long coming up. 26 of the Pittsburgh Pirates 30 games between now and the All-Star Break are against teams that are currently over .500. Time for the Pirates to find out what they are made of.