Defense Plays Key Role in First Loss of the Season for the Pittsburgh Pirates

PITTSBURGH, PA - APRIL 04: Ivan Nova /

Exhale, 1972 Miami Dolphins, the 2018 Pittsburgh Pirates are no longer undefeated

While some people may say otherwise, momentum is a very real thing in the game of baseball. And this is something that was on full display on Wednesday night at PNC Park.

For the first half of Wednesday night’s game it appeared the Pittsburgh Pirates were on their way to a 5-0 start. However, due to a defensive play momentum began to shift in this game. Once momentum shifted, defense would continue to impact the game in a negative fashion for the Pirates.

Prior to the 6th inning, the Pittsburgh Pirates had not trailed on Wednesday.

Josh Bell crushed a 2-run home run in the bottom of the 1st inning to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead. Then in the bottom of the 4th inning with the game now tied, Colin Moran singled home Corey Dickerson to give the Pirates the lead once again by a score of 3-2.

After chasing Minnesota starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi, the Pirates appeared to be on their way to adding to their lead in the bottom of the 5th inning.

With two outs and Gregory Polanco on second base and Starling Marte on first base, Dickerson blooped a single into shallow left field. Polanco was waved home, but he took a huge turn around third base leading to him being thrown out at the plate to end the inning.

This play was where defense started to impact Wednesday night’s game. It was also the beginning of the end for the Pirates undefeated record.

PITTSBURGH, PA – APRIL 04: Brian Dozier
PITTSBURGH, PA – APRIL 04: Brian Dozier /

Pirate starter Ivan Nova pitched better than his final line indicated on Wednesday night. While he was charged with 5 runs in 5 1/3 innings pitched, it was nowhere near all his fault. The reason it was not all his fault was due to his defense failing him in the top of the 6th inning.

With Brian Dozier on second base and no one out in the top of the 6th inning, Eddie Rosario popped a ball up that should have been an easy out. Catcher Francisco Cervelli lost the ball and immediately called for help, but no one helped him. This allowed the ball to drop, and, while Rosario was still out, Dozier than advanced to third base.

Miguel Sano would then single home Dozier, tying the game at 3. Logan Morrison then laced a double to right field. On the play, more poor defense from the Pirates aided in the Twins taking a 4-3 lead.

Polanco fumbled around with the ball in right field, and Josh Harrison made a terrible throw to the plate. These two things allowed Sano, despite being one of the slowest base runners in baseball and coming to a stop after rounding second base, to score from first.

Following the Morrison double, Nova was lifted for Dovydas Neverauskas.

Neverauskas was able to get the second out of the inning, but he also allowed run-scoring doubles to Eduardo Escobar and Byron Buxton. This made the score 6-3 Twins and led to Neverauskas being lifted for Josh Smoker.

Like Neverauskas, Smoker’s early season struggles would continue. He walked Jason Castro before getting Robbie Grossman to pop out to end the inning. While it has only been a handful of games, both Neverauskas and Smoker are quickly pitching themselves out of a roster spot.

The Twins would get another run in the top of the 7th inning off of Tyler Glasnow. However, this is a run that should not have scored. Glasnow picked off Rosario at first base for what should have been the second out of the inning. Rosario was called safe, though, and replay failed to overturn it. He would then score on a Sano double, making the score 7-3 Minnesota.

It was not all bad for Glasnow, though. After getting the final two outs of the 7th inning, he would allow a single in the 8th and strikeout the side. Glasnow also pitched a scoreless 9th inning with a pair of strikeouts. In his 3 innings pitched, Glasnow struck out 5 batters.

Glasnow is starting to look like a pitcher that is confident, composed, and trusts his stuff. If this continues, that will be a huge shot in the arm for a poor Pirate pitching staff as the season goes on.

Next: Pirate Mailbag: April 4, 2018

With their loss on Wednesday night, the Pittsburgh Pirates are now 4-1 this season.

Next up for the Bucs is a four-game series against their divisional rivals the Cincinnati Reds. This series begins at PNC Park at 7:05 p.m. on Thursday night. Steven Brault will make his first start of the season for the Pirates, while the Reds send longtime Bucco killer Homer Bailey to the mound.