Poor Infield Defense Burns Pittsburgh Pirates Again In Loss

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

Bad infield defense continues to be an early season theme for the Pittsburgh Pirates

On Monday afternoon the Pittsburgh Pirates early season tour of the 2019 National League Central division continued. The team kicked off a three-game series at Wrigley Field against the Chicago Cubs in what was the Cubs home opener.

Entering the series, the Pirates owned a 5-3 record after sweeping a four-game series from the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park over the weekend. Unfortunately, the recent success would not continue on Monday. Following a 10-0 beat down at the hands of the Cubs, the Pirates are now 5-4 on the season.

Early on this season infield defense has been a major issue for the Pirates. On Monday, it did not take long for poor infield defense to rear its ugly head.

With two outs in the bottom of the 2nd inning Daniel Descalso hit a routine ground ball to shortstop. Instead of finishing off a routine 1-2-3 inning, Pirate shortstop Kevin Newman threw the ball away allowing Descalso to reach base.

After Jameson Taillon intentionally walked Jason Heyward, Cubs started Jon Lester hit a double off of Taillon to score Descalso. Ben Zobrist then singled in a pair to make it 3-0 Cubs.

After Taillon hit Kris Bryant with a pitch, Anthony Rizzo lined a ball up the middle off of Taillon for a base hit. Javier Baez and Kyle Schwarber reached on Newman’s second and third errors of the inning. This made Newman the first Pirate to commit three errors in one inning since Abraham Nunez in 1998 against, you guessed it, the Cubs.

When the dust settled, the Cubs led 6-0 with all of the runs being unearned due to Newman’s two errors.

Taillon will be the first to tell you that he needed to make a pitch, especially to Lester, to get out of the 2nd inning. That said, Newman needed to make the plays that he failed to make. There is no way of knowing how this game may have gone had Newman made the routine play to retire Descalso giving Taillon a 1-2-3 inning.

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The 37 pitch 2nd inning brought Taillon’s day to an end. In 2 innings pitched he allowed six runs, all unearned, on four hits, two walks (one intentional), and three strikeouts.

The Pirates also announced on Twitter that Taillon was examined by the team doctor following his outing. This came as a result of a line drive off Taillon that came after Newman’s first error. Everything was “normal at this time” and he will be re-evaluated again tomorrow. Hopefully, on top of costing the Pirates the game, Newman’s errors does not lead to a Taillon concussion to boot.

Monday would not be a long day for Lester, either. Pinch hitter Steven Brault and Adam Frazier singles off Lester to start the top of the 3rd inning, leading to him being lifted due to left hamstring tightness. However, Brad Brach would take over for Lester and clean things up with a double play ball and a strikeout.

Brault did not have anywhere near his good stuff on Monday. But, to his credit, he took it on the chin and ate innings when the Pirates desperately needed him to. In 3 innings of work Brault allowed four runs on four hits, two walks, two strikeouts, and a home run allowed.

Francisco Liriano also helped in saving the bullpen. Liriano retired six of the seven batters he faced, with the lone base runner coming via a Colin Moran error, and he struck out a pair.

Nick Burdi then flashed his bright future by striking out the side in order, which included Bryant and Baez, in the bottom of the 8th inning. Burdi has now struck out eight of the 16 batters he has faced this season.

Games such as Monday’s are going to happen. Every MLB team goes through 5-10 games a season like this one. To use a Clint Hurdle-ism, shower it off and bounce back on Wednesday night.

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After a day off on Tuesday, the two teams will resume their series on Wednesday night. Jordan Lyles is scheduled to pitch for the Pirates while struggling righty Yu Darvish will take the ball for the Cubs. First pitch from Wrigley is scheduled for 8:05 Eastern Time.