Felipe Vazquez Implodes Again as Pittsburgh Pirates Lose to the Cardinals

(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
(Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates finished May by going 3-10 in the month’s final 13 games

The Pittsburgh Pirates have problems. Once dominant closer Felipe Vazquez has been terrible for the past two weeks and this is a big reason why the team has limped to the end of May. Thursday night’s 10-8 loss against the St. Louis Cardinals was the latest example of this.

In a rematch of last Saturday’s pitching matchup between Trevor Williams and Jack Flaherty, the Cardinals, as they were last Saturday, were victorious yet again. With the loss, the Pirates are now 29-27 this season.

After a strong month of April, May had not been kind to Williams. He entered Thursday night’s start with a 17.1% strikeout rate, 4.88 ERA, 4.92 FIP, and a home run rate of 1.95 HR/9 in 5 starts (27 2/3 innings pitched) this month. Williams would go on to finish the month out with yet another poor start.

With two Cardinal runners on base and one out in the bottom of the 1st inning, Williams got ahead in the count 0-2 on Jose Martinez. However, he would end up walking Martinez to load the bases. This also snapped a streak of 77 consecutive batters faced without issuing a walk for Williams.

Williams then got ahead of Dexter Fowler 0-2, before allowing a 2-run single on his 0-2 pitch. Yairo Munoz would then doubled down the left field line, making the score 4-0 Cardinals after an inning of play.

In the top half of the 2nd inning the Pirates had a golden opportunity to get right back into the game. Corey Dickerson singled to start the inning, Gregory Polanco followed with a base hit with one out, and a wild pitch by Flaherty put runners on second and third.

Jordy Mercer softly served a bloop single into shallow left field. It scored Dickerson, but Polanco was held at third base with just one out. After a sacrifice bunt by Williams put a pair of men in scoring position, Josh Harrison struck out to end the inning.

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While the Pirates were able to cut the Cardinal lead to 4-1, they easily could have scored more in the top of the 2nd inning.

Dickerson would also single to lead off the top of the 4th inning. Then with one out, the struggling Gregory Polanco doubled to score Dickerson. Polanco’s second hit of the night cut the Cardinal lead to 4-2.

If Thursday night’s game can prove to be the start of getting Polanco back on track that would be a massive, massive shot in the arm for a scuffling Pirate team.

With one out in the top of the 5th inning Francisco Cervelli was hit by pitch. Two batters latter Josh Bell hit a 2-run home run that just cleared the outfield wall. Bell’s 4th home run of the season tied the game at 4.

While the game was now tied entering the top of the 5th inning, this tie would not last long.

Dexter Fowler ripped a one-out doubled off the glove of Bell at first base. Then with two outs, Fowler scored on a bloop single by Greg Garcia to give the Cardinals the lead back at 5-4.

Williams should have been pulled after the Fowler double. However, Clint Hurdle stuck with his starting pitcher and this burnt him. Worst of all, Richard Rodriguez was warming in the bullpen and ready to go.

When his night came to an end, Williams had allowed 5 runs on 9 hits, a pair of walks, and 4 strikeouts in 5 innings of work.

The top of the 7th inning looked promising for the Pirates.

Cervelli and Starling Marte both singled on ground balls to Munoz at short. Jordan Hicks then issued a four-pitch walk to Bell to load the bases with just one out. Unfortunately, Munoz would get the opportunity to make up for his mistakes and he would take advantage.

Facing a 1-1 count, Dickerson would swing at a pitch that would have been a ball and hit a tapper to Munoz that went for an inning 6-4-3 double play. This was a huge blow to the Pirates’ hopes of winning the game and would continue their recent trend of leaving too many men on base.

After Tyler Glasnow pitched a 1-2-3 7th inning to complete a pair of scoreless innings of work, the Pirate offense would strike again in the top of the 8th inning.

Colin Moran singled off Hicks to start the inning and was replaced by pinch runner Sean Rodriguez. The third hit – and second double – of the night from Polanco would score Rodriguez, tying the game at 5.

After Hicks walked pinch hitter Adam Frazier and a Harrison fly out moved Polanco and Frazier each up a base, Hicks was pulled from the game for Bud Norris.

As Norris toed the rubber, he stared at Pirate catcher Francisco Cervelli stepping into the block. Cervelli would battle Norris to a 3-2 count before hitting the Cardinal closer’s 6th pitch over the left field wall for a go-ahead 3-run home run.

Cervelli’s 8th home run – which is a new career high – gave the Pirates their first lead of the game by a score of 8-5.

Just as he did last night, Kyle Crick pitched the 8th inning for the Pirates. For the second night in a row Crick pitched a 1-2-3 8th inning. It is possible he is starting to lock down the 8th inning job with his performance.

Felipe Vazquez took over for the Pirates in the top of the 9th and the team appeared to be well on their way to victory. Unfortunately, this is not how things would go.

After the Cardinals loaded the bases with no one out, Pinch hitter Luke Voit singled in a pair to cut the Pirate lead to 8-7. Munoz then crushed a walk-off 3-run home run to give the Cardinals a 10-8 victory.

Using Vzquez for a third day in a row after he had arm tightness that requried a MRI on Sunday was insanely stupid by Hurdle. Leaving him in after teh Voit single when it was clear Vazquez had nothing was not much better. Right now, I do not believe for one second that Vazquez is healthy.

This was a crushing loss for the Pirates. The team appeared to have rallied from a big 1st inning deficit to secure a victory. Instead, the game still ended in a loss after yet another Felipe Vazquez meltdown.

With the loss, the Pirates will finish the month of May with a 29-27 record. Before the season most Pirate fans would have gladly signed up for a 29-27 record at the end of May. However, after starting 26-17, 29-27 feels disappointing after limping to the finish line in May with a 3-10 record in the month’s final 13 games.

Factor in the fact the bullpen and starting pitching are both a mess right now, and things look very choppy entering the month of June.

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Game two of the series is scheduled for 8:15 p.m. on Friday night. Jameson Taillon is the scheduled starter for the Pirates as he will look to build upon his strong outing this past Sunday against the Cardinals. As they did last Sunday, the Pirates plan to counter Taillon with Miles Mikolas.