Losing Streak Continues as Pittsburgh Pirates are Swept by St. Louis

PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 12: JT Brubaker #34 of the Pittsburgh Pirates reacts after giving up a two run home run to Lars Nootbaar #68 of the St. Louis Cardinals (not pictured) in the fourth inning during the game at PNC Park on August 12, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 12: JT Brubaker #34 of the Pittsburgh Pirates reacts after giving up a two run home run to Lars Nootbaar #68 of the St. Louis Cardinals (not pictured) in the fourth inning during the game at PNC Park on August 12, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

7. 33. 6. 4. Final

The Pittsburgh Pirates entered Thursday afternoon’s contest on a 7-game losing streak with an overall record of 41-73

With the team far out of contention and looking to the future, manager Derek Shelton’s starting lineups have looked different just about every night. Thursday afternoon was much of the same for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Hoy Park started Thursday afternoon’s game in center field as Bryan Reynolds was given the day off after going 0-7 in the first two games of this series against the Cardinals. Park recently hit his first career home run, a solo shot off J.A. Happ Tuesday night.

With Reynolds receiving a maintenance day, Jacob Stallings took over in the three-hole with Colin Moran batting cleanup. After missing just over a month due to a fractured left wrist, Moran returned to the lineup on August 6th and Shelton’s decision between he and John Nogowski is becoming easier. Nogowski was electric to begin his career as a Pirate, going 18-37 in his first nine games in the black and gold. Since July 20th, however, Nogowski is 9-61 (.148) with 11 strikeouts.

Wilmer Difo, Anthony Alford and Gregory Polanco batted 5-6-7 while Kevin Newman batted 8th despite his poor .215/.254/.280 slash line.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have been outscored 43-12 over the 7-game slide so a little change in the lineup was warranted.

JT Brubaker took this hill this afternoon after a poor performance in Cincinnati on August 6th. Brubaker allowed 9 runs (8 earned) on 7 hits over 5 innings. The long ball has been Brubaker’s biggest problem as of late as he has given up 10 home runs in his last 6 starts. His last win came on May 29th against the Colorado Rockies and the Pirates were just 1-9 over his last 10 starts coming into today’s game.

Welcome Back Captain Redbeard

St. Louis got things going early this afternoon as Dylan Carlson led off the game with a single to right and then stole second. Brubaker was able to rebound by striking out Paul Goldschmidt but Nolan Arenado doubled to left to give the Cardinals an early 1-0 lead.

Ke’Bryan Hayes got things started for the Pittsburgh Pirates offensively with a double to center. At first, it appeared Cardinals’ center fielder Harrison Bader was going to make yet another diving catch to rob a Pirate hitter but he was unable to make the play and Hayes slid into second with his 14th double of the year.

Stallings then walked and with two on and one out, Moran stepped to the plate and hit a 3-run shot to right-center, his first home run since April 18th, to give the Pirates a 3-1 lead. This was also his first home run of the season off of a left-handed pitcher.

Long Balls in the 4th

Once again Brubaker struggled to keep the ball in the yard, specifically in the 4th inning of today’s game. After walking Matt Carpenter to lead off the inning, Paul DeJong homered to left to tie the game at 3. Following the home run, Brubaker struck out Bader but then Tommy Edman doubled and pinch-hitter Lars Nootbaar hit a 2-run home run to the seats in right to give St. Louis a 5-3 lead.

Today marked the 8th time this season that Brubaker has allowed 2+ home runs in a start. Brubaker threw 5 innings this afternoon, allowing the 5 runs on 5 hits and 2 walks. He struck out 2.

The Pittsburgh Pirates answered in the bottom half of the 4th inning as Moran hit his second home run of the day to the same section in right-center. Moran was 2-4 with 4 RBI this afternoon and the Bucs are fortunate to have him back and healthy again. John Nogowski will likely retreat to a bench role for the remainder of the season but it will be an advantage for Manager Derek Shelton as he now has a first base option from both sides of the plate.

Mishaps in the 6th

Duane Underwood Jr. was called upon to relieve Brubaker in the 6th inning and after a line out to begin the inning, Bader singled and then Edman hit a ball back to Underwood that appeared to be an inning-ending double-play ball. Underwood threw the ball out to Hoy Park in center field, however, to put runners at 1st and 3rd with one out. Andrew Knizner then bounced a ball up the middle that also looked poised for a double-play but there was a miscommunication between Newman and Difo and only one out was recorded, allowing Bader to score to give the Cardinals a 6-4 lead.

Underwood Jr. got off to a strong start this season, posting a 3.86 ERA in the month of April but has been inconsistent since, most notably in the month of July. In his 7 appearances in July, Underwood Jr. threw 10.2 innings and allowed 11 earned runs (9.28 ERA). The righty stayed in the game to start the 7th but after a Goldschmidt infield single and a walk to Carpenter, Underwood Jr. was lifted for Chris Stratton with two on and two out. Stratton struck out Paul DeJong to end the inning to keep the Pirates’ deficit at two runs.

Quick Work For David Bednar in the 8th

With former closer Richard Rodríguez out of the picture, David Bednar has made his case to take over that role. Coming into this afternoon’s game, Bednar had posted an ERA of 2.64 with a 15/54 BB/K ratio over 44.1 innings. Despite that, Bednar may not receive many save opportunities with the Pirates struggling mightily this year so he may be utilized prior to the 9th inning. That was the case this afternoon as Bednar entered the game in the 8th. Simply put, Bednar was dominant. After 3-pitch strikeouts to Bader and Edman, Knizner was able to foul off an 0-2 pitch but then struck out looking on the next as Bednar struck out the side on 10 pitches.

Bednar remained in the game to throw the 9th but was not as effective. After retiring Edmundo Sosa for the first out, José Rondón doubled to left and Goldschmidt doubled to right to put the Cardinals up 7-4. Nolan Arenado was intentionally walked to put the double play in order and pinch-hitter Yadier Molina grounded a ball to third but Hayes was unable to get the force out and the Pirates settled for the out at first. Paul DeJong then fouled out to right to end the inning. Despite giving up the one run, Bednar still sports a 2.73 ERA and will continue to be a strong option in the back end of the Pirates’ bullpen.

Pirates Fall Short in the 9th

Polanco led off the bottom of the 9th inning with a line drive to right field that looked poised to be the first out of the inning. Cardinals’ right fielder Tommy Edman misplayed the line drive however and Polanco was able to coast into second base to begin the inning. After a Newman flyout, Bryan Reynolds, who entered the game in the bottom of the 7th as a pinch hitter, homered to right to cut the deficit to just one run.

With one out in the 9th however, Cardinals All-Star closer Alex Reyes struck out pinch hitter Michael Perez and also Ke’Bryan Hayes who followed to end the game.

The Pirates have now lost 8 in a row after being swept by the Cardinals and fall to 41-74 on the year.

What’s Next?

Pittsburgh Pirates RHP Mitch Keller (7.06 ERA, 4.94 FIP) will take the hill Friday night against LHP Brett Anderson (3.54 ERA, 4.42 FIP) and the Milwaukee Brewers. First pitch from PNC Park is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET.