Pittsburgh Pirates: Bullpen Shines Again in Series Victory Over Milwaukee

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - APRIL 18: Kyle Crick #30 of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws a pitch during the eighth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field on April 18, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - APRIL 18: Kyle Crick #30 of the Pittsburgh Pirates throws a pitch during the eighth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field on April 18, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /
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This past weekend the Pittsburgh Pirates took two of three from the Milwaukee Brewers in their house of horrors and the bullpen was a major reason why

Early on in the season we identified the bullpen as a potential strength for the Pittsburgh Pirates. This past weekend in Milwaukee the Pirate bullpen continued to look like a strength for the Pirates, and was a driving force behind the team capturing a series victory over the Brewers.

In their first trip to their house of horrors in the 2021 season the Pittsburgh Pirates took two of three from the Milwaukee Brewers at the newly named American Family Field. All of this time maybe the problem was just the Miller Park name? In all seriousness, the Pirate bullpen shouldered the load in a big way this weekend.

It all started in Friday night’s victory. Chris Stratton, Sam Howard, Kyle Crick and Duane Underwood Jr. all pitched in relief of starter JT Brubaker in the 6-1 victory. These four relievers allowed just a single hit, walked 4 and struck out 3 in 3 innings of work. Of the 5 baserunners the Pirate bullpen allowed on Friday night, Stratton, who we will address more later on in the article, allowed 3 of them by surrendering a single and walking a pair.

Saturday night the bullpen had to cover 4 innings after Trevor Cahill allowed 7 runs in just 4 innings of work. Sean Poppen made his 2021 debut after replacing Michael Feliz on the active roster when Feliz was placed on the 10-day injured list. In his first outing as a Pirate, Poppen allowed 2 hits and struck out a pair in 2 scoreless innings of work.

Righty Clay Holmes entered the game in relief of Poppen. Holmes pitched 2 scoreless innings, allowing just a single hit and striking out a pair. Most encouragingly, Holmes, who has always battled control issues in his MLB career, did not walk a batter. Outside of one poor outing against the Reds two weeks ago Holmes has pitched very well dating back to Spring Training 2019. Holmes continues to emerge as an important part of the Pirate bullpen, as well as a potential long-term bullpen option.

Sunday afternoon the bullpen again played a large role in a Pirate win. Chad Kuhl pitched 5 innings, before being relieved by Sam Howard in the 6th. The lefty retired two of the three batters he faced while recording a strikeout. David Bednar relieved Howard with a runner on base and two outs in the bottom the 6th, Bednar walked a batter and then induced a fly out to end the inning.

Leading 5-3 in the bottom of the 7th inning Derek Shelton handed the ball to Stratton. As he did on Friday night, Stratton struggled. This time, however, he allowed runs, surrendering a game-tying 2-run home run to Daniel Vogelbach.

So far this season Stratton has been a blemish for the Pirate bullpen. Expected to be one of the team’s top high leverage arms, Stratton has posted a 6.48 ERA and 5.32 FIP in 8.1 innings pitched thus far. In these 8.1 innings of work Stratton has allowed 9 hits, a pair of home runs, he’s walked 2 and struck out 7.

Moving forward Stratton needs to get back on track. Entering the season he appeared to be a big time trade chip for the Pittsburgh Pirates, but that will change if he does not begin to pitch more effectively. If Stratton continues to struggle, odds are his high leverage innings will begin to go to pitchers such as Bednar, Howard and Underwood Jr. moving forward.

Crick took the mound in the 8th inning, retiring the side in order on just 10 pitches. With the game tied in the 9th inning Shelton handed the ball to Richard Rodriguez. Rich Rod pitched a 1-2-3 9th, and followed that up with a 1-2-3 10th inning to slam the door shut on the Brewers, giving the Pirates a series victory.

Overall this weekend the Pirate bullpen logged 11 innings of work. In these 11 innings of work Pirate relievers allowed just 2 runs on 6 hits, a home run, 6 walks and 12 strikeouts. This gave the ‘pen a 1.64 ERA for the series.

Next. Patient Approach Leading to Offensive Success for Pirates. dark

Through the first 16 games of the 2021 season the bullpen has been a strength for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pirate relievers have pitched 68 innings thus far this season, allowing just 48 hits, walking 29 batters and striking out 71, to go along with 9 home runs allowed. This comes out to a strong 3.97 ERA and 1.19 HR/9.

If the Pirate bullpen continues to pitch well that will lead to only good things for the Pirates. It will allow potential trade chips to shine prior to the July trade deadline, while it would also lead to young bullpen arms who could become building blocks continue to develop, blossom and build confidence.

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