Another Bullpen Collapse Leads To Another Pittsburgh Pirates Loss

PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 11: Joe Musgrove #59 of the Pittsburgh Pirates delivers a first inning pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on June 11, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ - JUNE 11: Joe Musgrove #59 of the Pittsburgh Pirates delivers a first inning pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on June 11, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

It is not easy being a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates right now

8. Final. 5. 4. 9

The Pittsburgh Pirates woes continued in the desert on Monday night. Through the first six innings of the game the Bucs appeared to be on their way to series-opening victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. Instead, yet another bullpen meltdown later Joe Musgrove‘s strong start was wasted and the Bucs were defeated by the Snakes 9-5.

With the loss, the Pirates are now 6-17 in their last 23 games. This slide has knocked the team to 32-34 overall on the season. To be frank, this team sucks right now.

Thanks to a rare defensive miscue by all-world Diamondback first baseman Paul Goldschmidt the Pirates were able to strike first on Monday night. Following a two-out double by Starling Marte in the top of the 1st inning, David Freese hit a line drive that hit off the end of Goldschmidt’s glove.

While the ball was hit hard by Freese, it was a play that should have been made. Instead, Goldschmidt was charged with an error, Marte raced around the bases to score, and the Pirates had a 1-0 lead.

Corbin was able to get into a bit of a groove following the Goldschmidt error. He went on to retire the next 10 batters he faced, before running into trouble in the top of the 5th inning.

Leading off the top of the 5th inning Josh Bell drew a four-pitch walk. Jordy Mercer then blooped a ball down the right field line that fell in fair for a double. After Corbin struck out his counterpart – Joe Musgrove – Josh Harrison was intentionally walked to load the bases with just one out.

Walking Harrison was a puzzling move by Arizona manager Torey Lovullo. Not because the move loaded the bases, but because it brought the red hot Austin Meadows to the plate.

Pittsburgh Pirates
PHOENIX, AZ – JUNE 11: Austin Meadows #17 of the Pittsburgh Pirates celebrates with teammate Corey Dickerson #17 after scoring on a single by Starling Marte #6 during the fifth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on June 11, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

Meadows made Lovullo pay for his decision when he lined a 2-1 pitch from Corbin down the left field line to score Bell and Mercer. Marte then hit a ball through the Diamondbacks’ drawn in infield that scored Harrison and Meadows.

Just like that, the Pirates led 5-0.

The Pirate offense continued to have success against Corbin in the top of the 6th inning when a one-out single by Elias Diaz and walk by Bell brought Corbin’s night to an end. Braden Shipley – who was making his Major League debut – replaced Corbin.

Mercer greeted Shipley by crushing a ball to straightaway center field. Somehow, Chris Owings tracked the ball down in center. This led to Bell getting doubled off first base, despite it being clear that Goldschmidt’s foot came off the bag. Even after the Pirates challenged, the call, somehow, stood.

This play would prove to loom large.

Owings’ ‘double play’ closed the book on Corbin who allowed five runs on six hits, three walks, and five strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings pitched.

As for Musgrove, he continued the strong start to his Pirate career on Monday night.

The Diamondbacks had two on and no one out in the bottom of the 2nd inning, but Musgrove was able to get out of it, thanks in large part to a good defensive play by Musgrove where he retired a runner heading home, to keep Arizona off the board.

Musgrove would not allow a runner to reach scoring position again until the bottom of the 6th inning. But, with two men on and two outs Musgrove struck out Ketel Marte to end the Diamondback threat.

In the bottom of the 7th inning Musgrove made the decision to stick up for his teammates. In the top of the 7th inning Harrison was hit with a pitch that was up high, and Meadows just barely dodge a high and in pitch as well.

With the first pitch of the inning Musgrove plunked Owings. Unfortunately, this would be the start of a big inning for the Diamondbacks.

After Musgrove hit Owings, a wild pitch allowed Owings to move up. Nick Ahmed then singled home Owings, cutting the Pirate lead to 5-1.

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Shipley would then hit a ground ball to Freese. On the play, Freese had all day to make the throw but rushed it causing his throw to pull Bell off the bag at first base. Although Shipley still appeared to be out, he was called safe. Freese was charged with a throwing error and Musgrove’s night was over.

Edgar Santana replaced Musgrove and was greeted by a run-scoring single from Daniel Descalso. After Santana struck out Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb hit a three-run home run to left field that tied the game at 5.

In 6+ innings of work on Monday night, Musgrove allowed three runs with just two of them being earned. He hit three batters, struck out six, and did not issue a walk. Also, two of the three runs charged to Musgrove were inherited runners that Santana failed to strand. Musgrove pitched better than his final line indicated on Monday night.

While Musgrove’s decision to plunk Owings is one that will be debated, and understandably so, it is easy to see why Musgrove did what he did. Not only was he sticking up for his teammates, the Pirates also have a reputation of being a team that allows others to bully them around with hit by pitches and dirty slides. Musgrove was simply trying to help change this reputation.

The real issues in the bottom of the 7th inning were Freese’s miscue and Santana grooving a 2-0 fastball to Lamb.

Archie Bradley took over for the Diamondbacks in the top of the 8th inning and had anything but a clean inning. A bloop single by Freese, a walk by Bell, Mercer singling off of Bradley’s glove, and a Diamondback defensive miscue that cost them a double play loaded the bases with two outs. However, Bradley got pinch hitter Colin Moran to fly out to center field as the Pirates wasted an opportunity to take the lead right back.

In the bottom half of the 8th inning Kyle Crick became the new Pirate pitcher. After allowing a single and issuing a walk, Crick quickly found himself in trouble and it was obvious he had no control on this night.

After Marte stole third base, Crick uncorked a wild pitch allowing him to score easily. This gave the Diamondbacks a 6-5 lead. After Crick was called for a balk, he got a groundball out and was then pulled for Dovydas Neverauskas.

After Neverauskas walked Jon Jay, allowed a triple to Descalso, and threw a wild pitch the Diamondbacks had busted the game wide open by a score of 9-5.

If you did not stay up late to watch the end of the Pirate game on Monday night, you probably made a wise choice. The team appeared to be on their way to victory, only for a defensive miscue and another bullpen meltdown to change the tide of the game.

Oh, and the Pirates did not lose because Musgrove stuck up for his teammates. They lost because Freese could not make a routine play and the bullpen then completely imploded. Monday’s loss was the Pirates’ first when leading by five runs since their back-to-back bullpen implosions in Baltimore against the Orioles last June.

Next: Kingham Has No Business Being At AAA

Game two of this series is scheduled for 9:40 p.m. on Tuesday night. Trevor Williams will look to get back on track after a bad May was followed up by a poor first start in June, while the Diamondbacks will give the ball to Clay Buchholz.