Pittsburgh Pirates Suffer Frustrating Loss Against The Twins
The Pittsburgh Pirates have now entered the final leg of their nine-game three-city road trip with the start of a two-game series against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field on Tuesday night
For the second time since the park opened in 2010 the Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves playing at Target Field in Minneapolis. Facing the struggling Minnesota Twins, the Pirates started a vital two-game series on Tuesday night. The reason this series is a vital one isthate the Pirates find themselves 5.0 games behind the Atlanta Braves for the second National League Wild Card spot making series against poor teams must win series.
Unfortunately, the Pirates will not be capturing a series victory in the Twin Cities. In the series opener on Tuesday night the Pirates were defeated in frustrating fashion by a score of 5-2. With the loss, the Bucs are now 61-59 on the season and 4-4 on their current road trip.
Early on things were looking good for the Pirates as they jumped out to an early lead.
David Freese singled off of Minnesota starter Jake Odorizzi to start the top of the 2nd inning, Josh Bell walked, Francisco Cervelli doubled, and the Pirates owned a 1-0 lead. A Colin Moran groundout brought home Bell and the Bucs led 2-0.
Josh Harrison then appeared to walk. However, home plate umpire Joe West ruled a ball that was on the edge of the left-handed hitter batter’s box strike three instead of ball four. This exact same pitch was then ruled ball three and four to Jordy Mercer. It’s beyond time for Country Joe to move on with his life’s work.
Jameson Taillon started for the Pirates on Tuesday night and retired the first nine batters he faced before running into trouble in the bottom of the 4th inning. This trouble was not all Taillon’s fault, though.
Joe Mauer singled to start the inning and Eddie Rosario would double. Rosario’s double came after Taillon’s fell behind the count 2-0 thanks to Joe West once again not knowing what a strike zone is.
Jorge Polanco then recorded a groundball base hit to right field that tied the game. This hit should not have tied the game, but Gregory Polanco made a very poor throw from right field. Lazily, Polanco lobbed a three-hopper toward the plate allowing Rosario to score. Despite it being a poor throw it still beat Rosario to the plate but pulled Cervelli up the first base line. Rosario, who ran through a stop sign from his third base coach, would have been out at the plate with an even decent throw.
With two outs in the inning the Jake Cave got jammed but managed to bloop the ball into center field. This scored Polanco and gave the Twins a 3-2 lead. When the dust settled on the bottom of the 4th inning Taillon had to be frustrated as the Twins had grabbed a lead after an inning where he was snakebitten multiple times.
The ump show would continue in the bottom of the 5th inning when Mauer walked on what should have been strike three, giving the Twins two runners on base with no one out. To his credit, Taillon would get a pair of pop-ups and a groundout to get out of it unscathed.
Throughout his start Odorizzi struggled with his control but the Pirates were unable to take advantage. A big reason for this was West’s strike zone. Pitches that were not strikes, some of which weren’t even close, were routinely called strikes forcing Pirate batters to chase.
Odorizzi settled in and retired 12 batters in a row before allowing consecutive singles to Freese and Bell with two outs in the top of the 6th inning. This brought Odorizzi’s night to an end as Twins’ manager Paul Molitor made the call to the bullpen and righty Tyler Duffey.
Duffey would strikeout Cervelli to end the top of the 6th inning and close the book on Odorizzi. In 5 2/3 innings pitched Odorizzi allowed two runs on four hits, he walked two, and struck out nine Pirate batters.
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Taillon was able to battle through not having his best stuff his final three innings of work, a horrible strike zone, and some tough luck in the 4th inning to hold the Twins to three runs on seven hits, a walk, and four strikeouts in 6 innings pitched. This marked the 14th consecutive start in which Taillon has allowed three earned runs or less.
As the game carried on so did the Joe West ump show. Twins pitchers continued to get borderline, and sometimes worse, calls that Pirate pitchers were not getting. Now, that said, the Minnesota pitching staff is one of the worst in the American League and the Pirates failed to take advantage of that.
Starling Marte doubled with one out in the top of the 8th inning giving the Pirates a chance to tie the game, but the team failed to take advantage. After Polanco capped off his rough night with his fourth strikeouts – he finished the game 0/4 with four strikeouts and his defensive folly – Freese reached on an infield hit and Bell walked to load the bases. But Matt Magill was able to get Cervelli to pop out to end the inning.
After Richard Rodriguez pitched a scoreless bottom of the 7th inning, he returned to the mound for the bottom of the 8th. His second inning of work would not go as smoothly, however, as he allowed a two-run home run to Miguel Sano to make the score 5-2 Minnesota.
Tuesday night’s loss was one of those pull your hair out kind of frustrating losses for the Pirates. Between the ump show that unfolded with Joe West’s strike zone, some tough luck in the bottom of the 4th inning, and the inability of Pirate hitters to generate much offense against a poor Twins’ pitching staff resulted in a 5-2 Pirate loss.
The second and final game of this series is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon. This game features what looks like a strong pitching matchup between Chris Archer (4.36 ERA, 3.84 FIP) and Jose Berrios (3.66 ERA, 3.72 FIP).