Pittsburgh Pirates Grab Defeat From the Jaws of Victory in Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - AUGUST 03: Luis Arraez #2 of the Minnesota Twins tags out Kevin Newman #27 of the Pittsburgh Pirates during the third inning of the game at Target Field on August 3, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA - AUGUST 03: Luis Arraez #2 of the Minnesota Twins tags out Kevin Newman #27 of the Pittsburgh Pirates during the third inning of the game at Target Field on August 3, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /
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Final. 5. 2. 4. 4

Monday night, the Pittsburgh Pirates kicked off their first Interleague series of the season when they traveled to Target Field to play the Minnesota Twins

The Pittsburgh Pirates played their first Interleague game of the season on Monday night. Traveling to Target Field, the Bucs kicked off a four-game, two-city series against the Minnesota Twins.

Entering the series on the heels of being swept by the Chicago Cubs and losers of four in a row, the Pittsburgh Pirates were looking to get back on track. Unfortunately, the struggles continued for the Pirates on Monday. Despite entering the 6th inning with a 4-0 lead, the Pittsburgh Pirates once again experienced a bullpen meltdown in a 5-4 loss against the Twins to fall to 2-8 on the season.

A Quick Start Offensively

Early on this season the Pittsburgh Pirates have struggled offensively. Entering Monday night’s game the team had a MLB worst .179 team batting average. Despite this, the offense started quickly.

Leading off and playing in center field, Cole Tucker hit a 99.9 MPH missile into the right field seats. His 1st home run of the season gave the Pirates a 1-0 lead.

In the top of the 2nd inning, Phillip Evans and Guillermo Heredia collected back-to-back hits with one out in the inning. Jacob Stallings then made it three hits in a row when he singled home Evans, giving the Pirates a 2-0 lead. With the help of four walks from Minnesota starter Lewis Thorpe, the Pirates plated another run to make the score 3-0 in the top of the 4th inning.

With how much the Pirate offense has struggled this season, especially early in games, it was great to see the hot start from the Bucco bats. Entering play on Monday the Pirates had scored the fewest runs in all of baseball through the first 6 innings of games played. It was a pleasant change to see

All Aboard the Phillip Evans Hype Train

Seats are quickly filling up on the Phillip Evans hype train. Signed as a minor league free agent this past offseason, Evans seemed like a long shot to make the Pirates’ Opening Day roster. Well, thanks in large part to the coronavirus shutdown, he did just that.

After going 2-for-4 with a RBI, Evans now owns a .348/.464/.435 slash line this season. Through his first 28 plate appearances of 2020, Evans owns a 161 wRC+, 14.3% walk rate and just a 17.9% strikeout rate.

Through the first 10 games of the season, Evans has proven he belongs on a MLB roster. The super utility man has done nothing but hit, and that continued on Monday night.

Derek Holland Pitches Better Than His Final Line As Derek Shelton Bullpen Mismanagement Continues

Derek Holland started for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night and cruised through his first 5 innings. In those 5 innings Holland kept the Twins off the board while allowing just two hits, he did not walk a batter, he struck out five, and he needed just 60 pitches to do so.

Holland ran into trouble in the 6th inning, but it was not all his making. With the Pirates leading 4-1 and two runners on base with two outs, Max Kepler lined a ball to center field. While it was hard hit, the ball should have been caught. But a poor read and bad first step by Tucker allowed the ball to get over his head for a 2-run double.

Derek Shelton then made the baffling decision to go to Miguel Del Pozo, who has been horrible this season while Chris Stratton and Geoff Hartlieb have done a great job of stranding inherited runners, to replace Holland. Entering the night Del Pozo had walked five batters in 1.2 innings of work this season. Del Pozo then walked all three batters he faced and uncorked a wild pitch, to tie the game 4.

The final line for Holland read 4 runs allowed on four hits, two walks, no home runs, and five strikeouts. He certainly pitched better than that, however, as bad managerial decisions by Shelton and unacceptable ‘pitching’ by Del Pozo cost Holland 3 runs.

After Del Pozo’s meltdown, Shelton finally went to Stratton. Stratton got the final out of the 6th inning and then pitched a scoreless 7th inning with a pair of strikeouts. It’s almost as if that’s who Shelton should have gone to instead of Del Pozo!

Oh, by the way, the three batter minimum rule is ridiculously stupid. Shelton may not have lifted Del Pozo after he walked the first two batters he faced, but the fact he could not lift him even if he wanted to is ridiculous. Be better, baseball.

Someone Needs to Teach Derek Shelton About the Intentional Walk

Intentional walking an opposing batter can be a great strategy. Someone needs to teach this to Shelton.

Sunday afternoon, he chose to not internationally walk Anthony Rizzo. Instead, Rizzo hit a fly ball that moved David Bote to third base. Javier Baez, who also should have been intentionally walked, then hit a ball that may have been a double play have Rizzo been walked for a walk off single.

Monday night, Shelton found himself in a similar position. With the game tied at 4 in the bottom of the 9th and a Twin runner on third base with one out, the no brainer decision was to walk the dangerous Nelson Cruz, especially with the slow footed double play candidate Miguel Sano on deck. Instead, Shelton pitched to Cruz who hit a walk off double.

10 games into his managerial career with the Pittsburgh Pirates Derek Shelton’s in game decision making has not impressed.

Next. Grading the Pirates Series Loss at Wrigley. dark

What’s Next

The Pittsburgh Pirates and Minnesota Twins will do battle at Target Field again on Tuesday afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 2:10 PM, Joe Musgrove (4.76 ERA, 6.84 FIP) will make his third start of the season for the Pirates. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.

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