A dreadful 7th inning combined with leaving too many runners on base sunk the Pittsburgh Pirates in a loss on Monday night
The Pittsburgh Pirates are now 20 games into their 2019 season. 20 games into the season, three issues have already cost the team multiple victories. These three issues have been the inability to hit consistently with runners in scoring position, poor defense, and bullpen struggles.
On Monday night, all three of these issues made an appearance in an 12-4 loss against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Following the loss, the Pirates are now 12-8 this season.
While Monday’s game was a tough pill to swallow, it was not all bad news for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Prior to the game, right fielder Gregory Polanco was activated from the injured list. Having Polanco back will be a huge boost for the Pirates, and his impact was felt right away on Monday night. In his season debut Polanco was 2-for-4 with a double and a walk.
Arizona starter Zack Godley struggled from the get go, but the Pirate offense also struggled to deliver the knockout hit.
In the bottom of the 1st inning the Pirates had the bases loaded with just one out, but Godley struck out Colin Moran and got Bryan Reynolds to ground out to end the inning. Then in the bottom half of the 2nd inning, the Bucs wasted having two runners on with just one out.
Finally, in the bottom of the 3rd inning, the dam started to crack for Godley.
With Polanco on second and one out, Moran made up for his 1st inning strikeout by ripping a run-scoring double to right field. Elias Diaz, who was making his first start of the season, would bloop a two-out single to shallow center field to plate Moran. This gave the Bucs a 2-1 lead after 3 innings.
After Godley pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the 4th inning, the Pirate offense ran Godley from the game in the 5th inning.
Polanco doubled to start the inning, Josh Bell tripled, Moran singled, and the Bucs led 4-1. Reynolds then got in on the fun with a double that put runners on second and third with no one out. However, the Pirates would fail to capitalize further.
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When Godley’s night was over he was charged with four runs on six hits, four walks, and two strikeouts in 4+ innings pitched. He threw more balls than strikes, and should have allowed more runs than he did. The Pirates, however, did something they have done too much of this season and helped Godley out by struggling with runners in scoring position.
Hitting with runners in scoring position has been a problem for the Pirates all season. This problem continued on Monday. This is an issue that the Pirates need to correct moving forward. When you have an offense that lacks the home run ball and you have to generate runs the way the Pirates do, it is vital to capitalize on scoring opportunities. So far this season, the team has not done enough of that.
Joe Musgrove started for the Pirates on Monday night and put together another strong start. Musgrove entered the game with the lowest ERA in baseball, and, while it would go up, he still pitched well.
After allowing a solo home run in the top of the 3rd inning, Musgrove went on to retire 10 in a row. Entering the 7th inning, Musgrove and the Pirates held a 4-1 lead. After issuing a walk and allowing a ground ball single to start the top of the 7th, Musgrove’s night was over.
Kyle Crick replaced Musgrove and allowed a bunt single to load the bases with no one out. Pinch hitter Blake Swihart then hit a dribbler back to Crick and the Pirates were given a golden opportunity to get the first out of the inning without allowing a run. Instead, Diaz never had his foot on home plate allowing the runner to score from third despite Crick flipping him the ball.
After getting another dribbler back to the mound for the first out of the inning, things came completely uglued. The Diamondbacks blooped a run-scoring single into shallow right field and then David Peralta ripped a bases clearing triple into the right-center field gap.
Crick got Adam Jones to pop out for the second out of the inning, but having thrown 26 pitches in the inning he was then lifted for Nick Burdi. Christian Walked greeted Burdi with a two-run blast to right field. This home run gave the Diamondbacks an 8-4 lead.
The top of the 7th inning completely flipped the script of Monday’s game. Arizona sent 10 men to the plate, scored 7 runs, and did what good offensive teams do. They took advantage of the scoring opportunity they had and put up a crooked number.
This is something the Pirates failed to do in the 1st, 2nd, and 5th inning. Until the Pirates start to hit more consistently with RISP, it is hard to envision them remaining in first place in the National League Central. This team’s pitching will keep them in contention throughout the season, but going 4-for-13 with RISP is not going to cut it.
The defensive miscues and bullpen woes made Musgrove’s final line look worse than he actually pitched. In 6+ innings of work, Musgrove was charged with two runs on five hits, two walks, and five strikeouts.
Injury would, literally, be added to insult in the top of the 8th inning.
Burdi, who has been excellent for the Pirates this season, allowed three straight bullets to start the inning. He would then fall behind the count 2-0 to Jarrod Dyson. After delivering ball two, he immediately fell to his knees clutching his right bicep. After remaining down on the mound for a minute, Burdi would leave the field in both pain and tears.
Obviously, this is not a good sign for Burdi. The rookie has already been through hell and back to reach the MLB level. After battling injuries, including Tommy John Surgery, Burdi had finally reached the Majors and was pitching extremely well. Hopefully, he will be ok.
In the 9th inning Pirate fans, well the ones still watching that is, got to witness something they had not seen since July of 2016. What is that you ask? A position player pitching!
JB Shuck became the first Pirate position player to pitch since Erik Kratz in July of 2016. Despite allowing a walk and an infield hit, Shuck used his power sinker that was checking in at a blistering 90 MPH to post a zero. His ERA of 0.00 is now tied with Felipe Vazquez for the best among Pirate relievers this season.
While everything went wrong from the top of the 7th inning on, the biggest issue in Monday night’s loss was the inability to cash in more with RISP. Had the Pirates cashed in on any of their early wasted opportunities there is no telling how the game may have gone. Had they blown the game open early on as they should have done, then the game may have gone in a completely different direction. This was a game that easily could have been a blowout victory for the Pirates, instead, after struggling with RISP, a poor defensive play, and bullpen struggles the wheels came off.
The bullpen struggles, however, needs a bit of an asterisk. Burdi was charged with four of the 10 runs the bullpen allowed, and a fifth run scored on a home run he allowed. However, it appears he was pitching injured.
The second game of this series is scheduled for 7:05 on Tuesday night. Trevor Williams (2.59 ERA, 3.75 FIP) will start for the Pirates and the Diamondbacks will counter with Luke Weaver (3.92 ERA, 2.90 FIP). The Bucs will be looking to nip their two-game losing streak before it becomes any larger, but it will not be easy against Weaver.