For a second night in a row the team’s inability to hit with RISP played a large role in the Pittsburgh Pirates loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
After winning five games in a row, the Pittsburgh Pirates have now lost three in a row. It’s the ebbs and flows of a Major League Baseball season.
On Tuesday night the Pirates were defeated by the Arizona Diamondbacks by a score of 2-1. Following the loss, the team is now 12-9 this season and in an 0-2 hole in this four-game series. In the loss, it was an all too familiar problem that sunk the Bucs.
Hitting with runners in scoring position has not been kind to the Pirates this season. Struggling in these situations played a large role in a series loss against the St. Louis Cardinals earlier this season, and has been a major factor in the now three-game losing skid the team is on.
In Monday night’s loss to the Diamondbacks, the Pirates were just 4-for-13 with RISP. These struggles prevented the team from busting the game open early, and led to a blowout loss. On Tuesday, the team was just 1-for-7 with RISP and, once again, failing to hit with men on base contributed to a loss.
Just as they did in the series opener, the Pirates scored first in game two. In the bottom of the 2nd inning Francisco Cervelli doubled to score Colin Moran to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead. However, Arizona starter Luke Weaver then retired the next two batters to end the inning.
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Polanco’s hit was a bloop single to shallow left field. When the ball dropped, Frazier was already 75% of the way to third base. He would freeze to make sure the ball would not be caught, but he should have kept running hard. At that point had it been caught Frazier was going to be doubled off easily. So, he should have just kept running hard in which case he would have scored easily.
After Frazier’s base running snafu, Weaver got a strikeout and a ground out to end the inning. That made the Pirates 1-for-7 with RISP through the game’s first 3 innings.
In addition to struggling with RISP, the injuries continued to pile up for the Pirates. One day after getting Polanco back from the injured list, temporary center fielder Bryan Reynolds exited the game with quad muscle discomfort. Reynolds exited the game after ripping a single to right field in the bottom of the 5th inning.
The Pirates said Reynolds exiting the game was just a precaution. Hopefully, the rookie will be just fine. Since being promoted to the Majors on Saturday Reynolds is 6-for-12 with a pair of doubles. He has also assumed the starting job in center field with Starling Marte.
Marte, Corey Dickerson, and Lonnie Chisenhall all currently on the IL. Polanco just came off the IL. Now, Reynolds potentially banged up. In short, playing outfield for the Pittsburgh Pirates continues to be the most dangerous job in America.
Trevor Williams started for the Pirates on Tuesday night and turned in another outstanding start. In 7 innings pitched Williams allowed a pair of runs on four hits, one walk, and four strikeouts. He continued to do what he does best and induced soft contact while pounding the strike zone throughout his start.
Williams has pitching extremely well dating back to May of 2017. Since July of 2018, Williams has the lowest starting pitcher ERA in all of baseball. Despite this, he continues to be one of baseball’s hidden gems as few people outside of Pittsburgh talk about him.
While Williams was outstanding on Tuesday night, Weaver was even better for Arizona. In 6 1/3 innings pitched the young righty allowed just one run on six hits, one walk, and six strikeouts. When he needed it, he found a little extra on his fastball to blow it by batters and he did a great job of dancing around rain drops in the game’s first 3 innings. He showed why the Diamondbacks wanted him as the center piece of the Paul Goldschmidt trade this offseason.
The lone walk Weaver issued came when he walked Cervelli with one out in the bottom of the 7th inning, this brought his night to an end. D-Backs manager Torey Lovullo lifted Weaver for lefty Andrew Chafin with switch hitting Cole Tucker stepping to the plate. Lovullo’s decision paid off as Chafin needed just one pitch to get Tucker to hit into an inning ending 6-4-3 double play.
After Richard Rodriguez pitched a scoreless top of the 8th inning, the Pirates had another RISP opportunity in the bottom half of the inning. Unfortunately, their woes would continue.
Archie Bradley walked pinch hitter JB Shuck to start the inning and Polanco reached on a two-out infield hit. Bradley would then strikeout Josh Bell to end the inning. Bell’s strikeout made the Bucs 1-for-8 with RISP.
In the bottom of the 9th inning the Pirates faced one of the best relievers in the game as the Diamondbacks sent Greg Holland to the mound. Right now, the Pirate offense is struggling against poor pitching. So, facing a reliever like Holland had disaster written all over it from the start.
Unfortunately, the RISP woes would continue against Holland. Jason Martin put together a great at bat to draw a one-out walk and moved to second base on a wild pitch. After Holland struck out Cervelli, Pirate manager Clint Hurdle made the baffling decision to pinch hit the struggling Jung Ho Kang for the red hot Tucker. Kang would fly out to left field to end the game, and the Pirates finished the game 1-for-10 with RISP.
As I said after last night’s loss, the Pirates must hit better with RISP. In my opinion, they can not contend in the National League Central without being one of the better teams in the league with RISP. The Pirate offense is not built on long ball meaning they must manufacture runs. A big part of manufacturing runs is hitting well with RISP.
In one of those weird baseball anomalies, the Diamondbacks have now won eight games in a row at PNC Park. Maybe it’s a NL West thing as the San Diego Padres once seemed unbeatable at PNC Park. Hopefully, the Bucs will end this streak tomorrow evening.
The third game of this series is scheduled for 7:05 on Wednesday night. Jordan Lyles (0.53 ERA, 2.63 FIP) will make his fourth start for the Pirates and will be looking to continue his strong start to the season. Merrill Kelly (4.37 ERA, 4.20 FIP) will toe the rubber for Arizona.