Thanks to Cole, the ‘pen only had to work one inning Thursday afternoon. That frame would be an eventful one, however. Juan Nicasio put two guys on base, forcing Clint Hurdle to turn to his relief ace with the Bucs still comfortably ahead, 7-3. The Tigers would not bow down to Rivero. A double and a RBI groundout cut the lead in half. Fortunately, that was the closest Detroit would get. Rivero struck out John Hicks to end the ballgame and secure a much-needed series win.
The stellar start to George Kontos’ Pirates career continued Friday night. With runners on the corners and nobody out in the seventh, Kontos came in to relieve Taillon with the game on the line. His job was to get out of the inning with the lead intact. He did more than that. Kontos faced three batters, getting a pop out, a strikeout and a force out to escape the frame without any damage.
After not having a significant impact on the final two games in Toronto, the ‘pen faltered in the series opener with Milwaukee. Entering in the seventh inning with the Bucs down a run, A.J. Schugal could not keep the Brewers off the board, as he allowed a solo shot to Keon Broxton for an insurance run.
In the series finale, Kontos and Nicasio each coughed up a one-run lead. In the seventh, Broxton hurt the Pirates again by taking Kontos deep to tie the game at five. After the Pirates regained the lead the next half inning, Nicasio allowed a two-run jack to Manny Pina that ended up being the winning strike
Of the seven games on this road trip, the ‘pen allowed at least one run in six of them. Granted, most of those contests were decided early on. But the relief pitching has been shaky all season long. Sadly, it doesn’t look like that trend is going to end.