Prior to the start of Wednesday afternoon’s rubber match between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers Steven Brault was activated off the 60-day injured list after being out since mid-March
Pittsburgh Pirates manager Derek Shelton mentioned he had no expectations for Steven Brault this afternoon other than for him to “pitch healthy.” A lat strain (latissimus dorsi tendon) is an injury that has hampered many pitchers throughout MLB history with the likes of Roy Halladay, Noah Syndergaard, Stephen Strasburg and Clayton Kershaw all dealing with similar problems at some point in their career.
Most notably, former All-Star Jacob Peavy became the first player to undergo surgery to repair a lat muscle after completely tearing it. Peavy missed a year of time in the prime of his career due to the injury so clearly this has been a case that the team has monitored heavily to ensure a strong and healthy comeback for Brault.
Brault pitched well for the club in the shortened 2020 season, finishing with a 3.38 ERA through 42.2 innings. Brault began the year as part of the bullpen but transitioned into a full-time starter, pitching to a 2.53 ERA in 10 appearances as a starter including one complete game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
In his four rehab starts between Bradenton and Indianapolis, Brault threw a combined 12.2 innings and allowed only 2 runs on 7 hits.
Pittsburgh Pirates waste an opportunity in the 1st
The Milwaukee Brewers sent three of their starters to this year’s All-Star Game in Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and today’s starter, Freddy Peralta who came into today’s game with a record of 8-3 with a 2.17 ERA and a BB/K ratio of 47/145.
Newly-acquired Hoy Park led off the game with a single, however, he was thrown out trying to steal second and Rodolfo Castro also struck out on the pitch. With two outs, Bryan Reynolds singled to left and Ben Gamel reached on an infield single to first but the Bucs were unable to cash in on their three hits as John Nogowski grounded out to third to end the inning.
Brault goes 4 strong
Brault worked around a walk and an infield single in the 1st inning and then had a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the 2nd before running into a bit of trouble in the 3rd. He struck out his mound opponent in Peralta to begin the inning but Brewers’ second baseman Kolten Wong doubled to deep right field and came around to score on an Eduardo Escobar two-out single to give Milwaukee a 1-0 lead.
The Pirates’ lefty had a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom of the 4th and then came to the plate and sacrificed Kevin Newman to third after his lead-off double in the top of the 5th. Despite making his plate appearance, Brault was lifted for RHP Cody Ponce in the bottom half of the inning after completing 4 innings of one-run ball. He allowed just three hits and one walk while striking out two.
Brault threw 75 pitches this afternoon, a fairly high number for start #1 after an injury but also an encouraging sign moving forward.
Solid Work against Peralta
Through 19 starts and 108 innings, Milwaukee starter Freddy Peralta had not allowed more than 5 hits in an appearance. The Pirates picked up 6 hits this afternoon against Peralta, forcing the Brewers to go to the bullpen in the 7th trailing 2-1.
The Bucs got things going in the top of the 4th this afternoon, with Bryan Reynolds walking to lead off the inning and then scoring on a Jacob Stallings’ double to deep center field.
The club also did some damage in the 6th with Reynolds once again leading off the inning, this time with a stand-up triple down the right-field line. John Nogowski hit a sacrifice fly to center and despite picking up his 12th quality start, Peralta exited the game with his team trailing by a run.
Cody Ponce pitches well in relief
Following Brault’s 4 strong innings, Shelton went to Cody Ponce in the 5th and the right-handed reliever was perfect. After a 1-2-3 5th inning, Ponce struck out Willy Adames and Eduardo Escobar in the 6th to give him three strikeouts in his two perfect innings of work.
Today was a very encouraging sign for Ponce as he had struggled to an ERA of 8.64 through his first 16.2 innings of work prior to today’s appearance. Ponce has made two starts this year but he may be more suited for a long-relief role, at least for the remainder of the 2021 season. He’ll look to build off todays’ strong two innings moving forward.
Trouble in the 7th
Kyle Keller took the hill in the bottom of the 7th and picked up two quick outs to begin the inning. Things unraveled after that however as Luis Urias walked and Manny Piña reached via an infield single to second before Keller was lifted for Chasen Shreve.
With two men on and two out, Rowdy Tellez stepped to the plate and hit a 423-foot home run to right to give Milwaukee a 4-2 lead. Kolten Wong then followed with a double to right but Shreve was able to retire Willy Adames for the third out.
The Bucs went down in order in the 8th and 2020 NL Rookie of the Year Devin Williams picked up his first career save in the 9th as the Pirates fell 4-2 in Milwaukee. After losing two of three against the Brewers, the Pittsburgh Pirates have fallen to 41-67 on the season.
The Pittsburgh Pirates (41-67) will travel from Milwaukee to Cincinnati to take on the Reds (57-51) tomorrow night at Great American Ball Park. RHP Wil Crowe (5.40 ERA, 5.63 FIP) will take the hill against Reds’ RHP Sonny Gray (4.26 ERA, 3.82 FIP). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.