Pittsburgh Pirates Continue to Slide as Bullpen Melts Down in the 8th Inning

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 27: Austin Meadows #17 of the Pittsburgh Pirates singles in the first inning during the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park on May 27, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 27: Austin Meadows #17 of the Pittsburgh Pirates singles in the first inning during the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park on May 27, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /
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To be blunt, the Pittsburgh Pirates suck right now

6. 33. Final. 4. 4

For a second consecutive Sunday, the Pittsburgh Pirates have suffered a gut punch of a loss. After a 9th inning meltdown against the San Diego Padres in a loss last Sunday, today, the Pirates melted down in the 8th inning in a loss against the St. Louis Cardinals.

With the loss, the Pirates are now just 2-7 in their past 9 games. This includes the team now losing three consecutive series. With the loss, the Bucs are now just 28-24 on the season.

Searching for a way to get back on track, Pirate starting pitcher Jameson Taillon unleashed a new weapon on Sunday afternoon – a slider. After never throwing a slider before his previous start when he threw four of them he leaned more on this pitch against the Cardinals and it would pay off.

After allowing a 1st inning run, Taillon would settle in for what would prove to be his best start since going 7 scoreless innings against the Marlins on April 13th.

As for the Pirate offense, they were facing the surprising Miles Mikolas. Prior to this season Mikolas, a one time Pirate farmhand, had not pitched in the Major Leagues since 2014. Despite this, he entered the game with a 2.24 ERA and a 3.27 FIP in 60 1/3 innings pitched.

After cruising through the first 3 innings on Sunday, Mikolas would surrender a run in the bottom of the 4th inning. After singling to start the inning, Austin Meadows would steal second base. Then with two outs, he scored on a Colin Moran single to tie the game at 1 run a piece.

In the bottom of the 5th inning, the Pirates would bust the game open.

Elias Diaz walked to start the inning and this was followed by a Jordy Mercer single. After Taillon flew out, Adam Frazier drove a triple into the northside notch. This scored both Diaz and Mercer, giving the Pirates their first lead of the game.

Frazier would then score on a sacrifice fly by Meadows. Meadows’ sac fly gave the Bucs a 4-1 lead after 5 innings of play.

PITTSBURGH, PA – MAY 27: Jameson Taillon #50 of the Pittsburgh Pirates delivers a pitch in the first inning during the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park on May 27, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA – MAY 27: Jameson Taillon #50 of the Pittsburgh Pirates delivers a pitch in the first inning during the game against the St. Louis Cardinals at PNC Park on May 27, 2018 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

The Cardinals would threaten to cut into the Pirate lead in the top of the 6th inning when Matt Carpenter drew a leadoff walk and Jose Martinez reached on a fielding error by Moran. However, Taillon would then flip a double play ball off the bat of Marcel Ozuna to end the threat.

Taillon took the mound to start the top of the 7th inning, but was lifted for Edgar Santana after allowing a base hit to two of the first three batters he faced.

After a wild pitch and a pop out, Santana was facing pinch hitter Jedd Gyorko with runners on second and third and two outs. Gyorko would pop a weakly hit fly ball that dropped in down the left field line to score a pair cutting the Pirate lead to 4-3. Santana then retired Carpenter to end the inning.

Taillon’s final line on Sunday does not do him justice. In 6 1/3 innings pitched he allowed 5 hits, no home runs, he issued just a single walk, and he struck out 6. Of the 3 runs he allowed, 2 of them were inherited runners that Santana failed to strand.

Thanks in large part to using his slider Taillon’s start on Sunday was his best in almost two months. His fastball command was also the best it has been in awhile. If the Pirates are going to contend for the postseason they need Taillon to pitch the way he did today in each start.

After being dominant for much of the first two months of the season, Michael Feliz has struggled his past few outings and this would continue on Sunday.

Feliz took over in the top of the 8th with the Pirates leading 4-3. After a bloop single by Martinez that was more luck than anything else, Feliz issued back-to-back walks to load the bases. After striking out Tyler O’Neill, Feliz was lifted for Felipe Vazquez.

Unfortunately, the recent struggles of Vazquez would also continue.

His day started by allowing a bloop single to Harrison Bader, the Cardinals tied the game at 4. Like Gyorko and Martinez’s hits, Bader’s was nothing but lucky. What happened next though would be poor pitching by Vazquez.

After walking Yairo Munoz, the Cardinals took a 5-4 lead. The score ran to 6-4 Cardinals when Carson Kelly reached on a fielder’s choice. Vazquez would then walk Greg Garcia, after which he was pulled for Steven Brault.

Brault would strikeout Carpenter to end the inning.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are a complete mess right now. The rotation and offense have both been inconsistent the past 10 days while the bullpen, which had been strength most of the season, has been a mess. As a result, the Bucs are just 2-7 in their past 9 games.

With the upcoming schedule of the Cubs, Cardinals, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks, if the Pirates do not start playing better and fast, things could get very ugly and fast.

Next: Meadows Needs to Play Every Day

Next up for the Pirates is a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs in the Cubs’ first trip to PNC Park this season. Game one of the series is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. on Memorial Day afternoon. Chad Kuhl is scheduled to start for the Pirates, while the Cubs plan to send Mike Montgomery to the hill.