The Pittsburgh Pirates picked up a much needed come from behind victory over the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night.
The Pittsburgh Pirates have won a baseball game! On Tuesday night, the Pirates kicked off their brief two-game series in Arlington with a 6-4 victory over the Texas Rangers.
This victory snapped the Pirates 8 game losing streak. With the win, the Pirates will finish the month of April with a 13-14 record. This record, however, comes as a bit of a disappointment since the Bucs started the month 12-6.
A big issue, arguably the biggest, for the Pirates during their losing streak had been the inability to hit with runners in scoring position. This continued to be a problem for the Pirates in Tuesday night’s loss. Luckily, they were able to overcome these woes. Bucs
The Bucs had runners on the corners with just one out in the top of the 1st inning and failed to score. In the top of the 2nd, they had runners on first and second with no one out. Once again, they failed to score.
Worst of all, they may have lost catcher Francisco Cervelli to injury in the 2nd inning. Cervelli was hit in the wrist by a pitch in the inning, and, after originally staying in the game, removed himself due to pain. It is not a good sign that Cervelli removed himself from the game, especially with his past history of injuries. Hopefully, it was just precautionary, but, things did not look good for the Pirate backstop.
Injuries have been a massive issue for the Pirates this season. The team currently has a whopping 10 players on the IL, and a grand total of 15 players have spent time on the IL in the season’s first month. Let’s hope Cervelli does not make that number 16.
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Jordan Lyles started for the Pirates and struggled for a second consecutive start. He started the game with 3 scoreless inning, but struggled to do so throwing 69 pitches in those innings. In the bottom of the 4th, the wheels came off the cart for Lyles.
A single and a pair of walks loaded the bases for the Rangers. Asdrubal Cabrera then blooped a two-run singled into right field to make the score 2-0 Texas. Shortstop Cole Tucker than made an A+ play to save a run, before Lyles got a ground out to end the inning.
Due to his pitch count, Lyles lasted just 4 innings. He allowed a pair of runs on three hits, four walks, and five strikeouts. In his last two starts, Lyles has allowed 7 runs in just 9 innings of work. Unfortunately, Lyles is starting to look like the pitcher fans feared he would be when the team signed him in December. This combined with Chris Archer being injured and the offense in a major funk is something that does not bode well for the Pirates.
Early on Tuesday night it looked like the Pirate offense would continue to frustrate fans. Former Pirate farmhand Adrian Sampson started for the Rangers. Nothing against Adrian, but, as his career 4.71 ERA and 6.00 FIP would indicate, he is not very good. The Pirates made him look like Cy Young.
Sampson turned in the best start of his MLB career pitching 5 2/3 scoreless innings. Sampson allowed just five hits, he did not walk a batter, and he struck out five. He retired 14 of the last 16 batters he faced, and was in complete control after hitting Cervelli to put two men on base with no one out in the 2nd.
Sampson exited the game with a runner on first and two outs in the top of the 6th inning. He was lifted for lefty Brett Martin who proceeded to allow a base hit to Colin Moran. However, Martin then struck out Elias Diaz to end the inning. This made the Pirates 0-for-7 with RISP.
The team had another opportunity with RISP in the top of the 8th inning when Gregory Polanco walked to start the inning and Melky Cabrera singled with one out. Texas pitcher Chris Martin would put out the fire, though. He struck out Moran with a fastball down the middle for the second out of the inning he then got Diaz to ground out to end the inning. This made the Bucs 0-for-9 with RISP.
When Lyles night ended Clint Hurdled went to the much maligned Steven Brault. To his credit, Brault pitched better than fans on social media, yours truly included, expected. Brault fired 2 scoreless innings, he allowed just one base runner, and he struck out three.
After Brault, righty Michael Feliz took the mound. This marked the first appearance of the season for Feliz who was recently recalled when Archer was placed on the IL. Feliz would retire the Rangers in order while picking up a pair of strikeouts.
Feliz returned to the mound in the bottom of the 8th inning. He got the first batter of the inning tor ground out and then recorded a strikeout. However, on the strikeout Rougned Odor reached on a passed ball by Diaz. Feliz would then issue a walk, get a pop out that should have ended the inning, and issue another walk to load the bases.
With the bases loaded and two outs, Feliz was lifted for lefty Francisco Liriano. Despite his 0.00 ERA, Liriano has struggled against the first batter he has faced and with inherited runners. These issues continued on Tuesday night. Liriano walked Joey Gallo to start the inning, making it 3-0 Texas. He then induced a ground ball to end the inning. 7 of 14 inherited runners of scored off of Liriano this season. This is simply not good enough and Liriano must be better.
While Feliz got tagged with an earned run, it was not all his doing. The runner only reached due to a passed ball, and scored after Feliz had been lifted from the game.
Feliz figuring things out would be a huge boost for the Pirate bullpen. Especially with Edgar Santana slated to miss the entire season following Tommy John Surgery and Nick Burdi on the IL. There are few relievers in the system whose pure stuff is better than Feliz. Prior to being recalled Feliz owned a 1.00 ERA, 3.48 FIP, and a 30.0% strikeout rate at Triple-A. So, maybe, he has found something.
Getting Feliz to figure things out would give the Pirates at least five relievers that can be trusted in high leverage situations.
Facing closer Jose Leclerc, the Pirates made things interesting in the 9th. Bryan Reynolds doubled to start the inning, Tucker reached on an infield hit, and the Bucs had runners on the corners with no one out. Adam Frazier then singled home Reynolds, with Tucker going to third, to cut the Rangers lead to 3-1.
After back-to-back strikeouts of Marte and Polanco, Leclerc threw a meatball to Josh Bell. Playing in front of his hometown crowd, Bell drove a double into the left-center gap. This double scored Tucker and Frazier to tie the game at 3, however, Bell was thrown out attempting to go to third to end the inning.
After the Pirates tied the game, ex-Ranger Keone Kela took over on the mound in the bottom of the 9th inning. Kela allowed a lead off single, but retired the next three batters he faced. This made his six consecutive scoreless outings for Kela, and sent the game to extra innings.
In the top of the 10th inning the Pirates were retired in order. Kyle Crick then took over on the mound for the team in the bottom half of the inning. Crick would need just 8 pitches to retire the Rangers in order, sending the game to the 11th inning.
Leading off the top of the 11th inning, the Pirates grabbed their first lead of the game. Reynolds led the inning off with his first career home run. The blast to straight away center field gave the Bucs a 4-3 lead. Two batters later, Marte launched a two-run home run to make the score 6-3 good guys.
After the Pirates grabbed the lead, it was Felipe Vazquez time in the bottom of the 11th inning. Entering this outing Vazquez had not allowed an earned run all season, this would change when Gallo homered to lead off the inning. Vazquez would then slam the door shut on the Rangers, to seal away the 6-4 Pirate victory.
Despite the victory, hitting with RISP continues to be a major issue for the Pirates. There is no explanation that I can think of as to why the team is struggling so mightily with RISP. It could be a poor approach, the guys could be pressing, or it may be something else completely. Regardless of the issue, hitting coaches Rick Eckstein and Jacob Cruz need to fix this problem ASAP.
If this problem is not fixed, the Pirates will continue to lose baseball games. During their last 9 games the Pirates are now just 15-for-70 with RISP. In my opinion, this lineup does not have enough home run power to generate runs without hitting well with RISP. Failing to hit with RISP could prove to be the biggest issue that holds the Pirates back throughout the 2019 season.
To the Pirates credit this tram fought its ass off. They rallied when the offense looked dead to tie the game and then took the lead in the 11th. As a result, the team finished April on a high note and with a 13-14 record.
The second and final game of this quick series is scheduled for 2:05 on Wednesday afternoon. Jameson Taillon (4.06 ERA, 3.12 FIP) will look to pitch the Pirates to a sweep, while the Rangers will counter with Shelby Miller (7.52 ERA, 7.65 FIP).