After winning five games in a row, the Pittsburgh Pirates have now dropped four consecutive games
A Major League Baseball season is often times like a roller coaster ride. Each team will experience ups and downs throughout the 162 game season. Right now, the Pittsburgh Pirates are experiencing their first downward swing of the season.
Following a 11-2 loss against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday night, the Bucs have now lost four games in a row to fall to 12-10 on the season. These four consecutive losses have come after the team won five games in a row. The ebbs and flows of baseball.
In Monday night’s blow out loss the Pirates wasted multiple opportunities to bust the game open early on before blowing a 4-1 lead and unraveling in the 7th and 8th innings. Tuesday night the Bucs lost 2-1 in a much different game. The common theme in these two losses, though? Struggling to hit with runners in scoring position. These woes continued on Wednesday night.
Colin Moran singled and Josh Bell walked with two outs in the bottom of the 1st, but Francisco Cervelli was retired to end the inning. The Bucs wasted a lead off double from Jung Ho Kang in the bottom of the 2nd inning, as well as back-to-back one-out singles from Adam Frazier and Melky Cabrera in the 5th.
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When the smoke cleared the Pirates were 0-for-6 with RISP on Wednesday night, running their total for the series with RISP up to 5-for-29. Had the Pirates cashed in on early opportunities this could have been a much different game. The Bucs could have chased Arizona starter Merrill Kelly from the game and gotten into a porous Arizona bullpen. Also, Clint Hurdle would have managed his bullpen differently and gone to more reliable relievers than long men Nick Kingham and Steven Brault.
Both Pirate runs came on solo home runs. Bell hit his 5th of the season in the bottom of the 4th inning, and Kang blasted his 4th of the young campaign in the bottom of the 6th inning. Unfortunately, this would be hit for the Pirate bats.
Another major issue in Wednesday’s loss was giving runs back.
After Bell’s home run cut Arizona’s lead to 4-1, the Diamondbacks responded with a solo home run from Eduardo Escobar. Following Kang’s blast that pulled the Pirates with within a score of 5-2, the Diamondbacks, aided by a Jason Martin error, had a three-run inning against Kingham to put the game out of reach.
While the Pirate pitching staff is off to a strong start this season, giving runs back has been a problem. This, along with their RISP woes, is an issue the team needs to fix moving forward. With the team struggling offensively, a strong argument can be made that giving runs back is an even bigger issue that the RISP struggles. When an offense is struggling to score, it is imperative that their pitching staff post a shutdown inning after they score.
Jordan Lyles made his fourth start for the Pirates, and struggled for the first time. After allowing just one run across 17 innings in his first three starts, Lyles struggled from the get go on Wednesday night.
Lyles allowed two runs in the 1st inning and two more in the 2nd. In 5 innings pitched, Lyles was tagged for 5 runs (4 earned) on eight hits, two home runs, and he struck out three batters.
The Diamondbacks were hitting line drives and rockets off of Lyles throughout his outing. To be honest, he was lucky his final line was not worse. Lyles left far too many pitches in the heart of the strike zone on Wednesday night. Hopefully, this will prove to be nothing more than a blip on the radar for Lyles and not him returning to his struggling form of old.
Brault would enter the game in the 8th inning to make his first appearance since April 8th. As one would expect, it did not go well. Brault allowed a three-run home run to Ketel Marte to run the Arizona score to 11-2. At this point, Brault serves no purpose in the Pirate bullpen. The team has a better option for long relief in Kingham, he can not be trusted to throw enough strikes to functions as a lefty specialist, and he gets crushed by right-handed hitters.
As I wrote about following Burdi’s injury, Geoff Hartlieb is the pitcher that should get promoted from Triple-A. Obviously, this did not occur. Instead, the Pirates went with the known commodity in Brault and he has continued to look like the pitcher the Pirates know him to be – a bad one.
There were some positives in the loss.
Kang looked the most comfortable that he has at the plate in a few weeks on his way to hitting a double, a solo home run, and drawing a walk. It was also great to see Bell continue his hot start to the season.
The best way to fix the team’s offensive woes is to hit for more power. No hitters on this roster have a higher power potential than Kang and Bell. If these two can consistently hit for power throughout the season, then the offense will come around for the Pirates. It is vital for both of these hitter to hit to their maximum ability if the Pirates are going to contend for a postseason berth.
The fourth and final game of this series is scheduled for 12:35 on Thursday afternoon. Staff ace Jameson Taillon (3.12 ERA, 3.39 FIP) will look to put a foot down and play stopper for the Pirates. Former Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke (4.60 ERA, 5.09 FIP) will look to pitch the Diamondbacks to a four game sweep and their 10th consecutive victory at PNC Park.