After nine consecutive series losses, the Pittsburgh Pirates have won a series. Woo hoo!
On Tuesday night in Anaheim, the Pittsburgh Pirates were in search of their first series victory in over a month. Even though it seemed as if the Pirates may never win a series again, their streak of nine consecutive series losses is over!
Following a 10-7 victory on Tuesday night, the Pirates have won the first two games of their series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. With the win, the Pirates have earned their first series victory and consecutive wins for the first time since defeating the Milwaukee Brewers on July 6th and 7th. The victory improves the Pirate record on the season to 50-69.
After a 3-run 1st inning led to a 10-run outburst in Monday night’s victory, the Pirate offense looked primed to strike early again.
Bryan Reynolds walked with one out in the inning and Starling Marte singled. On a ball in the dirt, Reynolds moved to third base, however, due to a late break from first base Marte was thrown out trying to advance to second base. After Josh Bell walked to put runners on the corners with two outs, Angels starter Griffin Canning got Colin Moran to pop out on the infield to end the inning.
Thankfully, this would not be a sign of things to come from the Pirate offense.
In the bottom half of the 1st inning the Angel offense also set up shop. Unlike the Pirates, they would cash in.
The struggling Trevor Williams allowed a lead off double and issued a walk, setting the table for a run-scoring double by Shohei Ohtani. After a run-scoring ground out and another walk, Williams allowed a base hit to the king of the Pirate killers Albert Pujols. This made the score 3-0 Angels. Williams then induced a pop out and recorded a strikeout to end the inning.
Williams did not get some calls in the 1st inning. Laz Diaz has long been known as arguably the worst umpire in the baseball when it comes to calling balls and strikes. That said, Williams did himself no favors. He continues to miss his spot way too often, including throwing a two-strike meatball to Ohtani.
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The gaffe by Reynolds led to the Angels leading 4-0 after 2 innings of play.
In the 2nd inning Williams issued a walk to David Fletcher. With two outs in the inning Ohtani hit a ball toward the left field line that Reynolds dove to try and catch. Diving for the ball was the wrong play by Reynolds. He needed to just keep the ball in front of him and prevent Fletcher from scoring. However, when he dove the ball got past him allowing the run to score and Ohtani to go to third base.
After the Reynolds defensive folly, the Angels would return the favor in the 3rd inning.
Adam Frazier and Reynolds collected back-to-back singles to start the inning. Josh Bell then blooped a ball to shallow left field that should have been caught, but Angels left fielder Justin Upton missed the ball allowing Frazier to score. Upton’s throw to third base was off target allowing Reynolds to reach safely. Canning then made the poor decision to try and throw out Bell at second base, only to throw the ball into the outfield allowing Bell to take third.
Following the Angels Keystone Cops impersonation, Colin Moran doubled to right field. The Moran double scored Bell, and cut the Angels lead to 4-3.
The Pirates needed a shutdown inning from Williams after their 3 spot in the top of the 3rd inning. Unfortunately, they did not get this.
Williams issued back-to-back walks to start the inning. Then with one out, Luis Rengifo singled in a run to make the score 5-3 Angels. Williams then got a double play ball off the bat of catcher Max Stassi to end the inning.
Canning’s night ended after 4 innings for the Angels. He allowed 3 runs on six hits, three walks, and two strikeouts in his first start since returning from the IL. Righty Taylor Cole was summoned from the bullpen to replace Canning in the top of the 5th, and things would quickly go south for him.
Marte singled off of Cole to start the inning. This was followed by a 2-run home run from Bell. The second hit of the night by Bell was his 31st home run of the season and tied the game at 5. This was also the first home run allowed this season by Cole.
Moran singled after Bell’s home run and Jose Osuna doubled. Osuna’s 13th double of the season scored Moran from first base, and gave the Pirates a 6-5 lead. Pablo Reyes singled home Osuna with two outs in the inning to extend the Pirate lead to 7-5, while also ending Cole’s night.
After the Pirates scored 3 runs in the top of the 3rd inning Williams gave a run right back. It appeared this was going to happen again in the 5th inning after Kole Calhoun doubled to start the inning. However, with some help from his defense Williams would strand Calhoun.
Pujols grounded out to move Calhoun to third base with just one out. Matt Thaiss then flew out to center field and Calhoun tagged on the play, attempting to score. Marte, however, had other ideas as his 7th outfield assist of the season nailed Calhoun at the plate to end the inning.
In addition to bringing the 5th inning to an end, Marte’s outfield assist also brought Williams outing to an end. In 5 innings of work Williams struggled. His control was not what he wanted, he frequently missed his spots, and his post-IL struggles continued. Williams allowed 5 runs on seven hits, five walks, and two strikeouts in his 5 innings of work, but his offense was able to bail him out.
Prior to going on the IL Williams owned both a 3.33 ERA and FIP in nine starts. In nine starts since coming off the IL he has allowed 41 earned runs on 13 home runs and a 8.1% walk rate in 50 2/3 innings of work. This has caused his ERA to balloon to 5.25 for the season.
It is obvious that something is wrong with Williams. He continues to struggle with hitting his spots and is no longer inducing soft contact at a better than league average rate as he had done since joining the Pirate rotation in May 2017. Hopefully, Williams can get over whatever is bothering him to finish the 2019 season strong. If not, let’s hope an offseason of rest will get Williams back on track.
The Pirate offense continued to hum along in the 6th inning as their lead grew.
Reynolds walked to start the inning, Marte singled, and Moran walked with one out. A sacrifice fly by Osuna with one out scored Reynolds. This made the score 8-5 Bucs.
Michael Feliz took over for Williams in the 6th inning. After retiring the first two batters he faced, he allowed a single to Fletcher and walked Mike Trout. Feliz would put a foot down and strikeout Ohtani to end the inning with the Pirates still leading 8-5.
With the Pirates now leading 9-5, Reynolds continued to mash with a solo home run in the 7th inning. His 13th home run of the season, and second in as many nights in Anaheim, made the score 10-5 Pirates.
Francisco Liriano was next up out of the bullpen for the Pirates. The veteran lefty continued his strong bounce back season by firing a 1-2-3 bottom of the 7th inning. Liriano would also retire the Angels in order in the 8th inning.
Clay Holmes started the 9th inning for the Pirates. After allowing a pair of runs to score, he was lifted for Felipe Vazquez. Felipe needed just one pitch to induce an inning, and game, ending double play.
While the Pirates have nothing but their pride left to play for this season, that does not make a series victory any less enjoyable. Especially after a 4-24 stretch that saw the Pirates drop nine consecutive series. The Pirates overcoming an early 4-0 deficit only added to the sweetness of the victory.
Additionally, the Pirate offense, which is now averaging a healthy 4.7 runs per game, has now scored 9+ runs in three consecutive games for the first time since 2016. Rick Eckstein and Jacob Cruz have been worth every penny this year and are the only members of the coaching staff that should be retained for next season.
The third and final game of the series is scheduled for 8:07 on Wednesday night. Chris Archer (5.23 ERA, 5.28 FIP) will start for the Pirates as he looks to build off of back-to-back strong starts. Brad Ausmus and the Angels will counter with lefty Dillon Peters (3.45 ERA, 5.26 FIP).