The post-break woes of the Pittsburgh Pirates followed the team to New York on Friday night
A black cloud continues to following the Pittsburgh Pirates around since the MLB All-Star Break. Entering play on Friday night the Pirates were a miserable 2-10 since the break, ending any hopes they had of contending down the stretch.
After losing 6-3 in their series opener against the New York Mets on Friday night, the Pirates are now 2-12 since the break. This drops the Bucs to 46-57 on the season.
It was the Pirates that drew first blood on Friday night.
Facing Mets trade bait Zack Wheeler, Josh Bell singled to start the 2nd inning and went to third base on a Bryan Reynolds single. Colin Moran then drove in Bell with a single that could have been ruled an error on Mets shortstop Ahmed Rosario, but, regardless, the Pirates led 1-0.
With two men on and no outs the Pirates looked primed to add to their lead. However, Wheeler pitched out of it. Wheeler struck out Jung Ho Kang, and then got ground outs from Elias Diaz and his mound counterpart Dario Agrazal to end the inning.
The Pirates were able to get to Wheeler again in the 6th inning. A 2-run home run by Adam Frazier and a one-out single by Bell ended Wheeler’s night. In his first start back from the injured list Wheeler allowed 3 runs on six hits, no walks, the Frazier home run, and seven strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings of work.
As for Agrazal, his night started strong. He retired the first seven batters he faced, before allowing a triple to Rosario on a ball that Starling Marte probably should have caught in center field. Agrazal had an opportunity to take a step toward stranding Rosario with Wheeler at the plate, but he hit Wheeler before allowing a 3-run home run to Jeff McNeil.
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McNeil’s home run was the first of three allowed by Agrazal. Todd Frazier hit a solo home run in the 5th inning, and home run derby champion Pete Alonso hit one with one out in the 6th inning. Alonso’s home run also chased Agrazal from the game.
The 5th start of Agrazal’s MLB career was his worst yet. Really, this was the first start in which he struggled. In 5 1/3 innings pitched he allowed 5 runs on four hits, three of which were home runs. While Agrazal did not walk a batter, he also recorded just one strikeout.
As has been discussed, without generating more swings and misses it is difficult to see Agrazal’s success being sustainable long term. A 9.6% strikeout rate is not good enough for a MLB pitcher. Only 5 of the 78 pitches Agrazal threw generated a swing-and-miss, that is just simply not good enough.
After the Pirates wasted a pair of base runners, with one being erased on a double play, in the top of the 7th inning, Keone Kela took the mound in the bottom half of the inning. In his second outings since returning from the IL Kela pitched a scoreless inning while recording a strikeout. He has now struck out a pair in 2 scoreless innings of work since returning to the club this past Wednesday.
Facing ex-Pirate Justin Wilson, the Pirate offense would threaten in the 8th inning.
Frazier led the inning off with a double and Marte reached on the second error of the game by Alonso. However, Wilson would pitch out of it. After striking out Bell, he got Reynolds to hit into an inning ending 4-6-3 double play.
Chris Stratton continued his strong work out of the Pirate bullpen by retiring the Mets in order in the bottom of the 8th inning. This sent the game to the 9th with the Pirates still trailing the home squad 6-3. Seth Lugo pitched the 9th for the Mets, and retired the Pirates in order to end the game.
The home run ball, or lack thereof, continues to be an issue for the Pirates. New York out homered the Pirates four to one in the game. It’s not a coincidence that the team that hit four home runs beat the team that hit just one.
Adding to the Pirate woes in the loss was another injury. Corey Dickerson, who has already spent over two months on the IL this season, exited the game after his second at bat with left groin discomfort. Hopefully, it was just a precautionary move for the Pirate left fielder. Not only is Dickerson having another strong season at the plate, he is one of the team’s best trade chips. If he is hurt again, there is almost zero chance the Pirates will be able to trade the free agent to be before Wednesday’s trade deadline.
The second game of the series is scheduled for 7:10 on Saturday night. Trevor Williams (4.96 ERA, 4.47 FIP) will start for the Pirates, and he will look to build upon a strong start his last time out after struggling in his previous four starts since returning from the IL. Meanwhile, the Mets will counter with lefty Steven Matz (4.75 ERA, 5.20 FIP).