Yet another weak offensive effort and some poorly played baseball in extras lead to a 2-1 loss for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday afternoon against the Chicago Cubs.
The losing streak is now up to four for the Pittsburgh Pirates after being swept in three games against the Chicago Cubs in Wrigley. This loss came in 11 innings by a score of 2-1.
Following the loss, the team is now just 2-7 on the season. However, just like every other Pirates game, there is always plenty to talk about. Here we go!
Kevin Newman (2-4) led the way for the quiet Bucs offense in the series finale. He homered in the 1st to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead right out of the gates. He would follow up with a single in the third.
Adam Frazier, Phillip Evans and Jacob Stallings provided singles of their own in the lineup. Josh Bell delivered a clutch pinch-hit single in the 10th that went unnoticed once Stallings was thrown out at the plate.
The hot bat of Colin Moran cooled off Sunday afternoon as he went 0-5.
Piggybacking Gone Wrong?
Pirates’ Manager Derek Shelton has been using Steven Brault and Chad Kuhl as a tandem to get through innings so far this season, with Brault pitching the first few innings and Kuhl replacing him. This tactic was very questionable in the series finale on Sunday.
Brault was perfect through three innings and only needed 36 pitches to get there. He was very efficient, was inducing soft contact, generating swings-and-missed, and looked to be dialed in. However, 3 innings was all he would see. Shelton stuck with the piggyback plan and removed Brault in favor of Kuhl to start the 4th.
After a scoreless 4th inning, Kuhl would give up back-to-back doubles to Willson Contreras and Kyle Schwarber which tied the game at 1. Although, with some better defense Contreras could have been retired on two separate occasions. He would then go on to get an out before walking Ian Happ. Kuhl was removed from the game with an abrasion to the cuticle on his right index finger.
The problem with this whole thing has nothing to do with Kuhl giving up a run in his outing. The fact that Shelton pulled Brault after pitching the way he did through just three innings is tough to swallow.
Extra Inning Struggles
The new rule for extra innings in the 2020 season puts a runner at second base with no outs to start the inning. So far, the Pittsburgh Pirates have played four innings with this new rule and they have yet to score a run in any of those innings.
The 10th inning started with Stallings on second and Josh Bell at the plate to pinch hit. Bell slapped a single into left which should have set up runners at the corners with nobody out for the top of the lineup.
However, third base coach Joey Cora decided to send arguably the slowest runner on the roster on a ball that Schwarber fielded pretty cleanly in left. Stallings was out by a mile and the Pirates would strand Bell at second to end the top half of the inning. Frustrating.
In his Pirates debut, Sam Howard would work out of a jam that had runners on second and third with nobody out. Howard was able to strike out two in a row and have David Bote pop out to Bell.
In the 11th, Newman started at second base with Jose Osuna at the plate. Osuna grounded a ball to Javier Baez and Newman was thrown out trying to advance to third. There was absolutely no reason for Newman to try to advance on a ball hit to short, but he tried it anyways and it took himself out of scoring position. Pittsburgh would then go down quietly to conclude that half of the inning.
There were more blunders in the bottom half of the 11th, this time coming from a managerial aspect.
With a base open, the Pittsburgh Pirates could have walked Anthony Rizzo to setup a force out around the infield. Instead, Shelton let Cody Ponce pitch to Rizzo who would move the runner over to third on a fly out to deep right. Then, Baez stepped to the plate with one out and a runner at third. Shelton could have called for the intentional walk to set up a double play ball, but instead let Ponce pitch to Baez. That would prove to be costly as Baez sent a line drive up the middle to give the Cubs a 2-1 victory in walk-off fashion.
The Pittsburgh Pirates will look to wake up the bats and put an end to their four-game losing streak when they square off with the Twins in Minnesota on Monday night. First pitch is scheduled for 8:10 PM ET and the pitching match up features Derek Holland (3.18 ERA, 5.72 FIP) for the Pirates and Lewis Thorpe (0.00 ERA, 3.93 FIP) for the Twins.