Pittsburgh Pirates Kick Off Vital Stretch With Win Over Rangers

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 07: Gregory Polanco #25 celebrates with Jung Ho Kang #16 of the Pittsburgh Pirates after a 5-4 win over the Texas Rangers at PNC Park on May 7, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 07: Gregory Polanco #25 celebrates with Jung Ho Kang #16 of the Pittsburgh Pirates after a 5-4 win over the Texas Rangers at PNC Park on May 7, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have now 5 of their last 6 games and are back on track following an 8 game losing streak

On Tuesday night the Pittsburgh Pirates kicked off what could be a vital early season stretch. Tuesday night started a stretch of 13 games in 13 days for the Pirates. It kicked off with the start of a two-game series against the Texas Rangers.

The Pirates kicked off this vital stretch with a very satisfying victory by the score of 5-4 over the Rangers. With the win, the Bucs have now won 3 games in a row. This has improved the team’s record to 17-15 on the season.

With both Chris Archer and Jameson Taillon on the injured list, the Pirates are in need of starting pitching help. While the pitcher they should be turning to is Mitch Keller, the team instead went with Steven Brault. To Brault’s credit, he gave the team just about all he could on Tuesday night.

Brault had only topped the 70 pitch mark once this season and that came back on April 8th against the Chicago Cubs. After starting the game with 3 scoreless innings of work, Brault ran into some trouble in the 4th.

Joey Gallo walked with one out and this was followed by a two-run home run by long time Pirate killer Hunter Pence. Brault would settle in to finish off the inning, with the Bucs trailing 2-1.

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In 4 innings of work Brault allowed the 2 runs on a pair of hits, three walks, and five strikeouts. You have to give a big tip of the cap to Brault for his effort on Tuesday night. He had not started a game this season, was not stretched out, and still battled to hold the Rangers to just 2 runs in 4 innings of work.

Facing former Pirate farmhand Adrian Sampson for the second time in the last week, the Pirates found more success than last week.

In the bottom of the 3rd inning Adam Fraizer hit a two-out triple and scored on a Starling Marte single. The bottom of the 4th inning saw Melky Cabrera do something no Pirate hitter had done this season – get a hit with the bases loaded.

Prior to Cabrera’s at bat the team was 0-for-16 this season with the bases loaded. But the veteran ripped a pinch hit doubled into the right field corner to get the team off the scheid, and give the Bucs a 3-2 lead. The lead grew to 5-2 when Gregory Polanco launched a two-run home run off of Sampson in the 5th inning.

Michael Feliz pitched a scoreless 5th inning in relief of Brault, things then got interesting for the Pirate bullpen. Looking to mix and match, manager Clint Hurdle had his hands full. Francisco Liriano pitched a scoreless 6th inning, but it did not come easy as he allowed a double and walked a pair.

Dovydas Neverauskas entered the game in the top of the 7th inning, and this was the start of Hurdle not helping his own cause. After starting the inning by inducing a ground out, Neverauskas issued a walk and allowed a single before being lifted.

With lefty slugger Gallo looming, Hurdle should have gone to Felipe Vazquez looking for him to get three or four outs. Instead, he went to veteran Tyler Lyons who, prior to Sunday, had not pitched in the Major Leagues in almost a calendar year. Lyons would strikeout Gallo looking, but then allowed a two-run double to Pence to cut the Pirate lead to 5-4. Lyons then got another strikeout to end the inning.

As the game’s later innings carried on the team had chances to add to their lead, but failed to do so. The Pirates woes with runners in scoring position continued as the team went just 2-for-8 with RISP on Tuesday night. However, there was plenty of bad luck. The team hit four balls with an exit velocity greater than 100 miles per hour that went for outs. Frazier was also robbed of a two-run single on a great diving play by Rougned Odor in the 4th inning.

The team continues to struggle with RISP, but if they continue to hit balls as hard as they did on Tuesday night things will work out. Tuesday night there were multiple cases of the Bucs being snake bitten.

After a sloppy, but scoreless, 8th inning from Kyle Crick, it was finally Vazquez time in the 9th. Felipe quickly dispatched of the first two batters before facing Gallo. Last week, Gallo hit a 441-foot bomb off of Vazquez. Due to this, Vazquez looked like a man on a mission. He struck out Gallo on just three pitches, with all three topping 100 miles per hour. This included a 102 mile per hour rocket for the second strike.

Tuesday’s victory was one of the most satisfying ones of the season for the Pirates. Brault rose to the occasions and pitch his guts out for the team, and the mix and matched bullpen did their job as well. Vazquez finished it off with a personal at bat against Gallo. That was fun.

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The second and final game of this series is scheduled for 12:35 on Wednesday afternoon. Nick Kingham (6.39 ERA, 3.54 FIP) will make his first start of the season for the Pirates, and will look to begin to make his case to remain in the rotation while Taillon is out which will be at least a month. As for the Rangers, they will counter with struggling righty Shelby Miller (7.99 ERA, 7.03 FIP). Hopefully, the Bucco bats can feast off of Miller on Wednesday afternoon.