Bullpen Falters Once Again in Pittsburgh Pirates in Loss

CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 11: Ben Zobrist
CHICAGO, IL - APRIL 11: Ben Zobrist /

The Pittsburgh Pirates are now 8-3 on the season

4. 13. 9. Final. 5

Wednesday was, well, ugly for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The team made just about every mistake imaginable in the bottom of the 6th inning, this combined with more bullpen woes led to the Pirates losing the Chicago Cubs by a score of 12-4 to on Wednesday night.

With the loss, the Bucs are now 8-3 on the season and have split the first two games of their three-game series against the Cubs. More concerningly, the issues that have plagued this team early on reared their ugly head again in the loss.

Early on things were looking good for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

With two men on base in the top of the 2nd inning, Sean Rodriguez blasted a 3-run home run off of Cubs’ starting pitcher Jon Lester. Rodriguez’s first home run of the season gave the Bucs a 3-0 lead.

Lester’s struggles would continue as Brault and Josh Harrison both singled off of Lester. However, the Pirates failed to capitalize any further and this would come back to bite them.

Control issues would begin to crop up for Brault in the bottom of the 2nd inning. He was erratic, wild, and was leaving too many pitches in the zone to get hit hard. This was a polar opposite of how Brault pitched in his first start of the season against the Cincinnati Reds last week.

After a bunt single, a double, and hit by pitch loaded the bases with no one out, Brault would uncork a wild pitch to score Ben Zobrist cutting the Pirate lead to 3-1. Javier Baez then launched his third home run of the series, giving the Cubs a 4-3 lead.

With 1-out in the top of the 5th inning Starling Marte hit a double. Then with 2-outs, Francisco Cervelli drove in Marte on a base hit to right field. This tied the game at 4 at the game’s halfway point.

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After the Pirates tied the game, Clint Hurdle would make what I felt was a managerial mistake. He should have gone to the bullpen to start the bottom of the 5th inning. Instead, he left in the struggling Brault.

When Brault allowed a double to Willson Contreras to start the inning things did not look good. However, to his credit, Brault retired the next three batters to end the inning with the game still tied at 4.

Brault had far from his best stuff on Wednesday night, but he battled and gave the Pirates a chance. He allowed 4 runs on 7 hits, 2 walks, a home run, and he struck out 3 in 5 innings pitched. Brault’s biggest issue was something that plagued him at times in the minor leagues – control. To go along with his trio of walks, Brault hit a batter, threw a wild pitch, and threw just 60 of his 94 pitches for strikes.

Tyler Glasnow took over on the mound for the Pirates in the bottom of the 6th inning and he struck out Baez to start the inning. Unfortunately, this strikeout came on a wild pitch that allowed Baez to reach and this was just the beginning of the ugly for the Pirates.

After moving up on a groundball, Baez would steal third base with just 1-out. Then, pinch hitter Tommy La Stella grounded out into a draw in Pirate infield. Due to a poor throw by Josh Harrison, Baez would score giving the Cubs a 5-4 lead.

Kris Bryant would then make the score 6-4 on a run-scoring double. Then with 2-outs, the Cubs would plate another pair of runs, with the assist of a defensive miscue by Starling Marte, to extend their lead to 8-4.

Glasnow threw the ball well in the 6th inning, but was the victim of terrible luck. Runners reaching on a strikeout, a stolen base, and terrible defense all occurred with him on the mound. He deserved a much better fate on Wednesday night, and, ultimately, it was the poor luck and even worse defense of the 6th inning that did the Pirates in on Wednesday night.

Left-handed pitcher Josh Smoker took over for Glasnow and continued to show that he has zero business being on a Major League roster. In 1 1/3 innings pitched Smoker got shelled. He allowed 4 runs on 5 hits and a home run. He now has a 9.82 ERA, an 8.18 FIP, and still has not recorded a strikeout in 4 innings pitched this season.

Smoker should not have made the roster out of Spring Training but he did. Now, however, it is time for him to be optioned to Triple-A for a better bullpen option such as Kyle Crick.

Speaking of pitchers that should not be in the Major Leagues, Dovydas Neverauskas pitched the bottom of the 8th for the Pirates. He would allow Baez’s fourth home run of the series, setting the final at 13-5 Cubs.

Next: Pirate Mailbag: April 10, 2018

The final game of this series is scheduled for 2:20 p.m. Eastern Time on Thursday afternoon. Trevor Williams will get the ball for the Pirates, while the Cubs will go with Kyle Hendricks. With a win, the Bucs will remain undefeated in series this season.