Yet another poor night from the bullpen led to the Pittsburgh Pirates suffering a loss against the Cleveland Indians on Wednesday night at PNC Park
For the second night in as many games against the Cleveland Indians, the Pittsburgh Pirates were defeated thanks in large part to the struggles of their bullpen. Following a terrific start from Steven Brault, the Pirate bullpen would falter yet again in the loss.
After losing to the Indians 6-1, the Pittsburgh Pirates are now 4-16 on the season. Also, with the loss, the team will remain winless in series played this season.
Steven Brault Dominates
In his first non-piggyback start, Brault was nearly un-hittable. In fact, he did not allow a base hit until the 5th inning.
Brault issued a walk to start the game and would not allow another base runner until the 4th inning. This base runner reached base due to a Kevin Newman error, but Brault quickly cleaned it up with a double play ball.
Throughout his MLB career control has been Brault’s biggest issue. Well, control was not a problem on Wednesday night. He threw his fastball for strikes, and his slider was wicked. In his 5 scoreless innings of work, Brault allowed just a pair of singles, he walked a batter and he struck out three.
In 12 innings of work this season Brault now owns a 3.00 ERA and a 3.64 FIP. While, yes, it has been a small sample size, 2020 has been, by far, the best season of Brault’s MLB career thus far. He is one of the Pirate players that appears to be making huge strides this season.
Bullpen Falters Yet Again
Neverauskas allowed a one out double and this was followed by a walk. After recording a strike out, Carlos Santana, who hit the game-winning three-run home run against the Pirate bullpen on Tuesday night, would strike again.
Santana crushed another three-run bomb. This one landed deep in the seats on top of the Clemente Wall, and gave the Indians a 3-0 lead.
With the Indians still leading 3-0 in the 8th inning, righty Tyler Bashlor made his debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates. After walking the bases loaded, Bashlor allowed a three-run double. He then hit a batter, bringing his night to an end.
In 4 innings of work, the Pirate bullpen allowed 6 runs on three hits, seven walks, a home run, and a hit batter. Not good!
The bullpen has been as big of an issue as any for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2020. If there is a silver lining to this, the team is learning which bullpen arms should and should not be considered part of their long term plans.
Geoff Hartlieb Continues to Impress
While a lot of bullpen arms have struggled this season, to his credit, Geoff Hartlieb has not been one of them. In fact, he, like Brault, is one pitcher that appears to be making a lot of strides in his development this season.
Hartlieb fired a scoreless 7th inning in the loss. While he did walk two batters, he did a nice job of working around it with a pair of strike outs and a ground out. Hartlieb has thrown his power sinker this season to go with a plus slider. While he does need to do a slightly better job of limiting hard contact and could afford to cut down on the walks, Hartlieb is certainly solidifying his spot as a bullpen building block moving forward. His 2.89 ERA and 3.68 FIP are both impressive.
Non Existent Offense
Wednesday night, the offense was non existent for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cleveland starter Aaron Civale dominated the Pirates on his way to a complete game. Through the first 8 innings of the game, the Pirates mustered just three hits, all singles, off of Civale who faced just one over the minimum.
Leading off the 9th inning, Cole Tucker collected a pinch-hit double. This gave the Pirates their first runner in scoring position of the game. After Newman singled to extend his hitting streak to eight games, Josh Bell hit a sacrifice fly to plate Tucker, scoring the lone Pirate run.
The Pittsburgh Pirates continue to have one of the worst offenses in all of baseball. Not to keep beating the dead horse, but as long as Adam Frazier, Josh Bell, Bryan Reynolds, and Gregory Polanco struggle, so will the Pirate offense. Those four batters were a combine 0-for-13 on Wednesday night.
The third and final game of this series is scheduled for 7:05 on Thursday night. Looking to avoid being swept, the Pittsburgh Pirates will send Trevor Williams (3.98 ERA, 4.62 FIP) to the mound. Meanwhile, the Pirate offense will have their hands full against Cleveland’s budding ace Shane Bieber (1.30 ERA, 2.13 FIP) who has struck out a MLB best 54 batters so far this season.