Things are not going well for the Pittsburgh Pirates right now
It has been a rough week for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pirates entered Saturday’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers as losers of six games in a row. Prior to the start of the game, the bad week continued.
Starting pitcher Chris Archer was placed on the 10-day injured list with thumb inflammation. Archer became the 15th Pirate to spend time on the IL this season. Some teams may go an entire season without 15 players spending time on the IL, let alone having that happen in the first month of the season. In addition to Archer, outfielders Corey Dickerson and Lonnie Chisenhall had their rehab stints ended on Saturday due to further injury concerns. You can read more about all the Pirate injury issues here.
As for the game itself, the Pirates lost to the Dodgers by a score of 3-1 to suffer their 7th consecutive loss. After starting the season 12-6 and owning the best winning percentage in the National League, this slide has dropped the Bucs to 12-13 on the season. This was also the team’s 8th consecutive loss at Dodger Stadium.
The loss also continued the team’s struggles against the National League West this season. This season, the Pirates are now just 2-7 against NL West teams while owning an 11-6 record against everyone else.
Despite the loss, the Pirates would score first on Saturday night.
Pablo Reyes singled off of Clayton Kershaw to start the top of the 3rd inning. With two outs, Adam Frazier would do some thing that has been a rarity for Pirate hitters lately – get a hit with a runner in scoring position. Frazier’s ground ball singled plated Reyes, and gave the Bucs a 1-0 lead.
Melky Cabrera followed Frazier’s base hit with one of his own. Kershaw would then settle in.
Joe Musgrove started for the Pirates on Saturday night and knew he needed to be great. Not only is the offense in a major funk right now, he was also facing one of the best left-handed starters in MLB history in Kershaw.
Through the game’s first 6 innings Musgrove allowed just three hits, all of which were singles, he issued just one walk and he struck out four. With the Bucs leading 1-0, Musgrove took the mound to start the bottom of the 7th inning.
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Leading off the 7th the Dodgers got back-to-back ground ball base hits to give them runners on the corners with no one out. Poor Pirate defense then took over.
Chris Taylor followed with a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 1. On the sac fly, Cabrera’s throw went to home plate when it should have gone to second allowing Alex Verdugo to advance to second base. Austin Barnes then hit a ground ball that was fielded by Cole Tucker. Verdugo got too far off the bag at second base and Tucker had him out. Instead, he threw to first base where Barnes should have been out but first baseman Josh Bell dropped Tucker’s throw.
After Musgrove got a strikeout for the second out of the inning, Joc Pederson would give the Dodgers their first lead of the game. The lefty lined a two-run tripled into the left-center gap. This hit made the score 3-1 Dodgers and ended Musgrove’s night.
While Musgrove was great, leaving him in to face Pederson was a huge mistake by Clint Hurdle. Musgrove was over 100 pitches and clearly running out of steam. Hurdle should have gone to either Richard Rodriguez, who has held left-handed hitters to a .170/.255/.272 slash line in his career, or Felipe Vazquez to face Pederson.
After Musgrove was lifted, Francisco Liriano record a three pitch strikeout to end the inning. Liriano’s strikeout also closed the book on Musgrove. In 6 2/3 innings pitched he allowed 3 runs on seven hits, a walk, and five strikeouts. Musgrove pitched better than his final line would indicate.
Facing Caleb Ferguson, the Pirates had an opportunity in the top of the 8th inning. A walk by Tucker and a pinch hit single by Gregory Polanco gave the team runners on first and second with no one out. Ferguson then walked Frazier to load the bases with no one out.
Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts then lifted Ferguson for Pedro Baez. This is when the Pirates’ inability to hit with RISP would rear its ugly head yet again. Baez got Cabrera and Colin Moran to pop out, Bell struck out to end the inning. As a team, the Pirates are now 0-for-16 with bases loaded this season.
Kyle Crick pitched a scoreless bottom of the 8th inning, giving the Bucs one last shot against Dodger closer Kenley Jansen. Jansen would quickly retire the Pirates in order, to close out the 3-1 Dodger victory.
Defense and scoring runs continue to be an issue for the Pirates. During their 7 game losing streak, the Pirates are averaging just 1.7 runs per game. This, obviously, is not going to win many games.
Yes, the lineup has been hurt by injuries. However, the Pirates went 1-for-7 with RISP on Saturday. During the 7 game losing streak, they’re 5-for-46 with RISP. The need must do a better job of capitalizing on the scoring opportunities they get. If not, it will be a long season on the North Shore.
The team’s defense has been an issue throughout the season as well. While all 3 runs Musgrove allowed were earned, the runs he allowed in the 7th inning were not completely his doing. With better defense behind him in the inning, odds are, Musgrove escapes the inning with the game tied at 1.
With injuries continuing to pile up for the Pirates, they have zero margin for error. The team can not continue to play poor defense while playing shorthanded offensively. Right now, the Pirate defense needs to record every out that is there for the taking. So far this season, they have not done that nearly often enough.
Talking about injuries, defensive woes, and failure to hit with RISP is beginning to sound like a broken record. However, these issues continue to arise for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Unfortunately, the combination of these three is not a good one for any baseball team.
The third and final game of the series is scheduled for 4:10 on Sunday afternoon. Trevor Williams (2.59 ERA, 3.46 FIP) will start for the Pirates, while the Dodgers will counter with veteran lefty Rich Hill. After starting the season on the IL, this will be Hill’s first start of the 2019 campaign.