Pittsburgh Pirates: Bad Night for Derek Shelton Leads to Loss


Monday night the Pittsburgh Pirates kicked off their 2020 home schedule with a showdown against their divisional rival Brewers

For the first time in nine months, the Pittsburgh Pirates took the field for a regular season game at PNC Park. On Monday night, the team welcomed their divisional rival Milwaukee Brewers to town for their 2020 home opener.

In their first home game since September 29 of last season, the Pittsburgh Pirates were defeated by the Milwaukee Brewers 6-5. The loss was a frustrating one as the Pirates entered the 9th leading 5-1. This was their first loss at home when leading by at least 4 runs entering the 9th inning since 2006.

Let’s Piggyback, Y’all! 

Entering the game Pirate manager Derek Shelton planned on piggybacking starters. Steven Brault took the ball to start the game for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

After a quick, efficient 1st inning, Brault labored in the 2nd inning. After issuing back-to-back walks to start the inning, Brault induced a 5-3 double play ball. He then got a fly out to end the inning.

After Brault retired the Brewers in the 2nd inning, the rain started. This led to Brault’s day ending earlier than planned. In his 2 innings of work Brault allowed a hit, walked a pair and picked up a strikeout. He struggled to throw his off-speed pitches for strikes, and appeared to be trying to hard to hit edges instead of just hitting the strike zone. This is something that always got Brault in trouble in the past, so, hopefully, it will not become a trend this season.

When the rain subsided, Chad Kuhl took the mound for the Pirates in the 3rd inning. This was Kuhl’s first time on a MLB mound in a regular season game since June 26, 2018.

In his first MLB outing in 762 days, Kuhl was outstanding. His fastball consistently sat in the mid-90s and maxed out at 96 MPH, his slider was wicked and he did a great job painting corners with un-hittable pitches.

Kuhl pitched 3.2 scoreless innings in his return to the Majors. He allowed just three hits, walked a pair and struck out four. If this is the Kuhl the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to get this season, that will be a massive boost to the starting rotation. Kuhl was filthy on Monday night, absolutely filthy.

Red Beard Stays Red Hot

Through the first four games of the season, Colin Moran has been one of the hottest hitters for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Captain Red Beard would remain red hot on Monday night.

After going 4-for-11 against the Cardinals with a home run and a double, Moran led the 2nd inning off with a home run. Moran’s second home run of the season gave the Bucs a 1-0 lead shortly after the rain delay ended.

Moran would would then get a ball wet. In the bottom of the 7th inning he launched a ball into the Allegheny River. Moran’s 2nd home run of the game, and 3rd in the young season, gave the Pirates a 2-1 lead.

Moran’s 438 foot blast gave him his first career multi-home run game. He also became just the fourth player in Pirate history to hit multiple home runs in the team’s home opener, and the first since Garrett Jones in 2010.

7th Inning Shenanigans 

Shelton kicked off the 7th inning with a bit of perplexing move. Instead of sticking with Chris Stratton, who got the last out of the 6th inning, or going to another pitcher with high leverage experience, he called upon lefty Nik Turley. Saturday afternoon Turley fired a 1-2-3 inning in his first outing since 2017.

With two outs and a runner on second base, Turley walked Eric Sogard. This brought up the top of the Milwaukee line up. At this point, Shelton should have gone to Nick Burdi. Instead, he stuck with Turley who surrendered a game-tying hit to Lorenzo Cain. After a Kevin Newman error loaded the bases with two outs, Turley found himself facing Yelich with the bases loaded. To his credit, he got one of the best hitters in the game to fly out to end the inning.

Going to Turley was an interesting choice, leaving him in to face Cain was a poor choice. But to Turley’s credit, he battled and got out of the inning with the game still tied.

Following Moran’s home run in the bottom half of the inning, the Pirate offense went to work.

Bryan Reynolds walked following Moran’s home run and Jose Osuna reached on a throwing error that put runners on second and third with just one out. Shelton then let Polanco face LOOGY Alex Claudio, which led to Polanco’s striking out.

After Jacob Stallings walked to load the bases, Jarrod Dyson picked up his first hit as a Pirate driving in a pair of runs. Stallings then scored on a wild pitch, making the score 5-1 Pirates.

The 7th inning was not the best managed one by Shelton, but it all worked out. As Shelton’s managerial career continues to progress, he will learn more about his team and his in game decision making will improve.

More Bad Bullpen Work

Entering the season the bullpen was a major concern for many fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and rightfully so. Over the weekend the bullpen was up and down against the Cardinals. This continued on Monday night.

We have already discussed the good work of Stratton and Turley. Rodriguez pitched a much needed 1-2-3 8th inning, which included a punch out. Then in the 9th inning, Michael Feliz ran into trouble.

Feliz allowed a hit to start the inning, issued a one-out walk and hit Keston Hiura with the bases loaded to force in a run. This led to Feliz facing Yelich with the bases loaded, just one out and the Pirate lead cut to 5-2. After Feliz got Yelich to ground out, he was lifted from the game.

Kyle Crick, who struggled both with his pitching and fielding, in St. Louis on Saturday inherited a messy situation. Crick took the mound with two outs and the Pirates leading 5-3, but the Brewers had the tying run in scoring position. In a completely predictable move, Crick would allow a two-run double to lifelong Pirate killer Ryan Braun to tie the game.

New Extra Innings Rule

Starting extra innings with a runner on second base is stupid. It is degrading and drags down the integrity of the game. That is all.

A Bad Night For Shelton

It was not a good night for the Pirate manager.

Going to Turley in the 7th inning was a questionable move, leaving him in to face Cain was a terrible decision. Not pinch hitting for Polanco in the 7th inning, or the 9th inning, against lefties was a poor move, and he completely mis-managed the 9th inning once Feliz got into trouble.

Going to Feliz to start the inning was not an issue. However, going to Crick when he got into trouble was. Crick’s velocity has been way down on all of his pitches dating back to summer camp and his control has been a mess. Going to him with two outs and the tying run in scoring position in the 9th instead of Burdi, or Clay Holmes for that matter, was a head scratching decision.

Then in the 10th inning, Shelton continued to mis-manage the bullpen. Continuing to ignore Burdi and Holmes, he went to Dovydas Neverauskas. While Neverauskas did pitch a scoreless 10th inning, he allowed the winning run to score in the top of the 11th.

All of this comes after the questionable move to go to Rodriguez on Friday night with the Pirates trialing by just a run. While there is no denying Shelton’s leadership and the clubhouse culture he is helping to create, four games into his managerial career in Pittsburgh the in game decision making has been poor.

Next. Examining Bullpen Spin Rates. dark

Next Up

The second game of this three-game series is scheduled for 7:05 on Tuesday night at PNC Park. Veteran lefty Derek Holland will make his Pittsburgh Pirates debut, while the Milwaukee Brewers will send righty Josh Lindblom to the mound. Lindblom, an ex-Pirate, will be pitching in his first MLB game since 2017 with the Pirates after spending the last two seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization.