The Pittsburgh Pirates now have losing record after a terrible road trip. Read on for recaps and some analysis:
Record over Last Week: 1-5
Overall Record: 33-36 (3rd in NL Central)
June 14: Pittsburgh Pirates @ New York Mets
Winning Pitcher: Jameson Taillon
Losing Pitcher: Jacob deGrom
Jameson Taillon delivered an ace performance in only his second career start, giving up only two hits over 8 shutout innings. Taillon had a no-hitter through six innings, but it was broken up when Curtis Granderson led off the Seventh inning with a single. Tony Watson came in to pitch a scoreless Ninth inning to complete the shutout. The Pirates got all the offense they needed from two two-run home runs hit by Jung Ho Kang and Starling Marte in the sixth and eighth innings respectively.
June 15: Pittsburgh Pirates @ New York Mets
Winning Pitcher: Noah Syndergaard
Losing Pitcher: Jeff Locke
Jeff Locke had trouble getting outs, lasting only four innings and giving up nine hits and seven earned runs in the process. The Mets got to Locke early, getting three runs in the first inning to take an early lead. The Mets added another run in the third inning, then chased Locke from the game by scoring three runs without recording an out in the fifth inning. The Mets then ran the score up to 11-0 on the Pirates’ bullpen going into the ninth inning. The Pirates were able to avoid the shutout by adding two runs in the top of the ninth.
June 16: Pittsburgh Pirates @ New York Mets
Winning Pitcher: Bartolo Colon
Losing Pitcher: Juan Nicasio
Save: Jeurys Familia
Pirates’ starter Juan Nicasio gave up three home runs in only 4.1 innings of work, allowing the Mets to run up a 6-0 lead by the time he was removed from the game in the fifth inning. The Mets got the bulk of their runs thanks to a four-run third inning that included two home runs from Neil Walker and Michael Conforto. The Pirates made a run at a comeback, scoring two runs each in the eighth and ninth innings to narrow the deficit. However, it proved too little too late as the Pirates would fall 6-4.
June 17: Pittsburgh Pirates @ Chicago Cubs
Winning Pitcher: Jake Arrieta
Losing Pitcher: Francisco Liriano
Once again, Jake Arrieta had his way with the Pirates, giving up only two hits and striking out 11 over six scoreless innings. Meanwhile, the Cubs got all the runs they would need off a two-run Matt Szczur home run in the first inning. Francisco Liriano kept the Cubs off the board other than that until the sixth inning when the Cubs broke the game open with a three run inning. The Cubs would add another run in the seventh to provide the final score.
June 18: Pittsburgh Pirates @ Chicago Cubs
Winning Pitcher: Jon Lester
Losing Pitcher: Jon Niese
Save: Hector Rondon
For a while it looked like the Pittsburgh Pirates would actually get the better of the Chicago Cubs in this one, but the Cubs chipped away at a Pirates’ lead and held on to a one run lead to guarantee a third series victory for the Cubs in three opportunities.
The Pirates got going early when Jordy Mercer led off the game with a solo home run. The Cubs tied the game with an Anthony Rizzo solo home run in the second inning, but the Pirates took a 3-1 lead thanks to single runs in the third and fourth innings. The Cubs were able to tie the game and subsequently take the lead thanks to single runs in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. The Pirates’ bats were quiet the remainder of the game and the Cubs held on for the win.
June 19: Pittsburgh Pirates @ Chicago Cubs
Winning Pitcher: Kyle Hendricks
Losing Pitcher: Jameson Taillon
Jameson Taillon’s second start of the week did not go nearly as well as his first. The Cubs roughed Taillon up for four earned runs on eight hits in only four innings of work. The Cubs got the majority of their runs from three home runs in the second and third innings. The Cubs had run the score to 6-1 before the Pittsburgh Pirates showed some signs of life by scoring three runs in the seventh inning to make it 6-4.
However, the Cubs ended any hopes of a Pirates’ comeback by adding another four runs in the home half of the seventh inning. The Pirates did get a run back in the ninth inning, but did not mount any serious resistance as the Cubs completed their sweep of the Pirates.
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Pirate of the Week: Jung Ho Kang
It was a rough week for the Pirates overall, but Jung Ho Kang had about as good a week as any Pirate could, given their performance. Overall, Kang went 6 for 20, with a double, a home run, and two walks. Kang’s home run came at an opportune time as well as it was a two-run bomb that gave the Pittsburgh Pirates a 2-0 lead and broke a scoreless tie in the sixth inning of their game with the Mets last Tuesday. This would also prove to be the only game that the Pirates would win on their road trip and in the past week. The Pittsburgh Pirates could use a few more performances like Kang’s in this past week if they hope to get back into to NL Wild Card race.
Takeaways, Observations, and other Random Thoughts
Bad to Worse
Things have gone from bad to worse for the Pittsburgh Pirates this past week. In addition to the poor results, the Pirates have been without Starling Marte for much of the past week after he was hit in the face in Wednesday’s loss to the Mets. The bullpen remains in shambles, with many relievers continually shuttling between Pittsburgh and Indianapolis as the Pirates look to find anyone who can pitch better than the current options.
New backup Catcher Erik Kratz has seen a lot of action due to Chris Stewart being seemingly banged up, and has been a disaster in the process. In 15 at bats since being acquired, Kratz has yet to record a hit and has struck out six times. This has prompted the Pirates to promote Jacob Stallings, who was not even on the 40-man roster. The Pirates desperately need to get their pitching sorted out and the Cervelli back at the very least if they are to turn things around and compete for a Wild Card spot.
Jameson Taillon Buzzkill
As I’m writing this, Taillon has yet to take the mound against the Cubs on Sunday night, regardless of how his start goes, these words will still apply. After Taillon’s fantastic performance against the Mets on Tuesday, it would be easy to get carried away and proclaim him an instant ace. I’m here to be a bit of a buzzkill though. While I fully expect Taillon to be a future All-Star and ace like Gerrit Cole has turned out to be, he still only has two major league starts under his belt.
Look at Jeff Locke’s complete game shutout a couple weeks ago as an example of how almost any quality starter can have a dominating performance from time to time. Additionally, this came against a Mets’ team that has been somewhat offensively challenged. Like I said, I expect Taillon to become an excellent big league starter, but there will likely still be some growing pains to come, especially as teams start to “figure him out” and force him to adjust.
Coming up this week: The Pirates return to Pittsburgh to play host to the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers.