Pittsburgh Pirates: Bullpen Shines in Series Loss
By Marty Leap
While the Pittsburgh Pirates lost two of three in their season-opening series at Wrigley Field, the bullpen was not the problem
Last Thursday the Pittsburgh Pirates kicked off their 2021 season with a 5-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs. In the win, the Pirate bullpen flashed their potential by allowed just 1 run in 6 innings of work.
While the Pittsburgh Pirates would lose the next two games of the series on their way to a series loss, the bullpen was not to blame. In those two losses the Pirates combined to score just 3 runs. Some shoddy defense played a role, too.
During the season-opening series the Pirate bullpen pitched 14 innings, allowing 4 runs. One of these 4 runs were allowed by Wil Crowe who was optioned to the alternate training site Sunday morning, and another run should have gone as an unearned run as it only scored due to a Phillip Evans error.
In their 14 innings of work in the series the Pirate bullpen allowed just four hits and walked six. The bullpen did not allow a home run in the series loss against the Cubs while racking up 18 strikeouts.
Sunday morning the bullpen got a boost when Kyle Crick joined the team after the birth of his first child. Crick would also make his season debut on Sunday, pitching a scoreless inning in the Pirate loss.
Richard Rodriguez pitched a scoreless inning in his lone outing of the series, while David Bednar and Sam Howard each pitched a pair of scoreless innings. While Chris Stratton allowed a run in Thursday’s victory, he bounced back with a 1-2-3 inning on Sunday afternoon. Facing his former team Duane Underwood Jr. allowed a run on a hit while striking out 4 in 2.1 innings of work in the series. The run he allowed, however, is the run that scored via the error by Evans.
Young righty Luis Oviedo also got in on the action. Saturday afternoon Oviedo impressed in his MLB debut, striking out a batter while pitching a 1-2-3 inning. Oviedo carries Rule 5 status and therefor must remain on the Pirate roster throughout the season, but with the stuff he flashed on Saturday afternoon this should not be a problem.
As fans saw in the series loss against the Cubs the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to lose a lot more games than they will win in 2021. The team has a poor starting rotation, a lineup that is not very deep, and that was before Ke’Bryan Hayes went on the injured list, and could play some shoddy defense. All of that said, the bullpen has the potential to be the bright spot of the 2021 Pirates, and the bullpen was most certainly the bright spot in the team’s first series of the season.
A strong bullpen could also provide some long-term benefits for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Arms with multiple years of team control remaining such as Bednar, Howard, Underwood Jr., Oviedo and Clay Holmes could emerge as building blocks in the Pirate bullpen. Additionally, proven veterans such as Rodriguez and Stratton could become valuable trade chips in July. Nothing but good can come from the Pirates having a quality bullpen this season.