The Pittsburgh Pirates continue to struggle on the road
After Saturday night’s loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, the Pittsburgh Pirates are now 1-9 in their last 10 road games. This gives the team an overall road record of 8-11 on the road this season.
The Pirate offense struggled against a bad starting pitcher, the bullpen issued too many walks, and Clint Hurdle mismanaged the bullpen on Saturday night. All of this added up to the Pirates losing to the Brewers by a score of 5-3 to fall to 18-16 on the season.
Facing Jhoulys Chacin and his 11.0 percent walk rate, which entered Saturday night as the 7th worst among National League starting pitchers, the Pirate offense frustrated fans on Saturday night. Josh Bell walked to start the top of the 2nd inning, but was stranded. Then with 2-outs in the top of the 3rd inning Adam Frazier singled and Gregory Polanco walked, but Chacin then got Starling Marte to pop out to end the inning.
Jameson Taillon started for the Pirates and was the victim of bad luck early on. The Brewers had three bloop singles and a weakly hit groundball single in the first 3 innings of the game. However, a pair of double plays helped clean up Taillon’s bad luck.
This included an impressive 4-2 double play to end the bottom of the 3rd inning. With runners on the corners Jesus Aguilar popped out to Pirate second baseman Adam Frazier in shallow center field. Throwing off his back foot, Frazier threw out Lorenzo Cain at the plate as he tried to tag and score from third base. A big assist goes to Francisco Cervelli who made a great tag on the play.
While there was certainly bad luck, Taillon continued to struggle to generate enough swings and misses. This has been an issue with Taillon all season and continued on Saturday night.
Travis Shaw would walk for the Brewers to start the bottom of the 4th inning. This was already the third time in the game that Milwaukee’s leadoff man got on base to start the inning, and it would finally burn Taillon.
With 1-out in the inning, Hernan Perez doubled to drive in Shaw making the score 1-0 Brewers. Taillon would get out of the inning without further damage. However, thanks in large part to a large amount of foul balls by Perez and Manny Pina, Taillon would throw 33 pitches in the inning running his pitch count to 76 after just 4 innings.
Taillon would last 5 innings on Saturday night holding the Brewers to a single run. However, he generated just four swings-and-misses, with three of them coming in one at bat, and he recorded just a single strikeout.
In the top of the 6th inning the Pirates would finally get on the board.
After back-to-back singles by Frazier and Polanco put runners on the corners with no one out, a Marte sacrifice fly tied the game at 1. Despite Polanco stealing second base with just1-out, the Pirates failed to plate another run in the inning.
This led to the end of the night for Jhoulys Chacin. Despite entering the night with an 11.0 percent walk rate and a 5.22 FIP, Chacin held the Pirates to just a single run on 3 hits, 2 walks, and he struck out 4 in 6 innings of work.
After a 1-2-3 bottom of the 6th inning for Edgar Santana, Jeremy Jeffress took over on the mound for the Brewers in the top of the 7th inning. After issuing a walk to Cervelli to start the inning, tip of the cap to Cervy for a hell of an at bat, Colin Moran would reach on a fielder’s choice and be replaced by pinch runner Chad Kuhl. After Kuhl advanced to second base on a passed ball, Jeffress would retire Jordy Mercer and pinch hitter David Freese to end the inning.
Kyle Crick took over on the mound in the bottom of the 7th inning and had his first poor outing of the season. With 1-out, he walked Eric Sogard who entered the at bat sporting a 6-for-56 collar this season. After a 2-out walk, Christian Yelich would single off of Crick to give the Brewers a 2-1 lead.
The Brewers would then push their lead to 3-1 on a passed ball, that easily could have been ruled a wild pitch, before Crick would walk Aguilar – with ball 4 being a wild pitch – ending his night. Steven Brault would enter the game to get the final out of the inning.
Having Crick start the bottom of the 7th inning was not an issue as he has been great this season, however, Crick should have been pulled for Brault when Yelich came to the plate. Clint Hurdle left Crick in the game though, and it burnt the Pirates.
The bottom of the 7th inning would be the first time the Pirates walking Sogard and Hurdle leaving a reliever in too long would burn the team, but not the last.
Josh Hader would take over for the Brewers in the top of the 8th inning. Entering Saturday’s game he had allowed just 4 hits while striking out 39 batters in 18 innings pitched this season, but the Battlin’ Bucs had no time for this.
With 1-out in the top of the 8th inning, Gregory Polanco put together an incredible at bat. Facing Hader who had just blown everyone, especially left-handed hitters, away this season Polanco fouled off a tough 2-strike pitch before drawing a walk. This led to a 2-run home run from Marte to tie the game at 3.
George Kontos entered the game for the Pirates in the bottom of the 8th inning. Kontos allowed a double to Domingo Santana to start the inning, and then with 2-outs walked Sogard. At this point, Kontos who had thrown more than a collective 50 pitches the past three nights and has been terrible this season, Hurdle should have gone to the pen.
Instead, he left Kontos in and Braun would drive a 2-run double into the left center gap to give the Brewers a 5-3 lead. After Saturday’s outing, Kontos now owns a 5.52 FIP and has struck out just 4 batters in 15 1/3 innings pitched this season.
Hader would return to the mound for the Brewers in the top of the 9th inning. This time around he would retire the Pirates in order to end the game, closing out a 5-3 Brewer victory.
Saturday’s loss was a tough pill to swallow. 4 of Milwaukee’s 5 runs came from runners who reached base via a walk. Also, watching Kontos be left in the game too long and meltdown after the Pirates seized momentum on Marte’s home run in the top of the 8th inning was brutal.
The rubber match of this three-game series will be played at 2:10 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. Chad Kuhl is scheduled to start for the Pirates, while the Brewers plan to send Chas Anderson to the hill. The Pirates will be looking for a win that would improve their record to 10-3 against the National League Central this season.