Following a 7-2 loss against the Washington Nationals the Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves back below .500 on the season
Thursday night the Pittsburgh Pirates overcame an early deficit to defeat the Washington Nationals 9-4 in the first game of their four-game series at PNC Park. Friday night they once again found themselves in an early hole. While the Pirates were able to pull within 3-2 in the 2nd inning, they never got closer than that in a 7-2 loss.
With the loss the Pirates have dipped back below .500 on the season at 3-4. It now sets up the remainder of this series to be a best of two between the Bucs and Nats, as both teams will spend the rest of the weekend searching for a series victory.
Mitch Keller fails to get through 4 innings
Yes, Mitch Keller pitched better than his final stat line. That said, he still struggled and did not pitch nearly good enough for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Keller pitched just 3.1 innings, allowing 4 runs on 7 hits, 3 walks and 3 strikeouts.
In the 1st inning Keller was hurt by some weakly hit ground balls that snuck through the infield. The 4th run allowed by Keller scored when Nelson Cruz grounded out with a runner on third one pitch after home plate umpire Ryan Wills called an 0-2 pitch that was never out of the zone a ball. However, he also struggled with his control. He was missing spots with regularity and this proved to be a trend as he never found command of his off speed stuff during the start.
While the Nationals struggled to square up Keller’s pitches his battles with his command proved to do him in.
At some point, and soon, Keller needs to put a foot down. He needs to simply start pitching more effectively. If not, regardless of the reason(s) for his struggles he will need removed from the starting rotation.
It continues to be the same story with Keller. Struggling to command his pitches, struggling in big spots, and, despite having plus stuff, Keller not finding success on a MLB mound. Keller will continue to make starts for the Pirates, likely at least through the month of May, but if his struggles continue the Pirates will find themselves facing some difficult decisions.
Miguel Yajure struggles out of the bullpen
This past Sunday right-handed pitcher Miguel Yajure pitched 2 scoreless innings in relief to pick up his first career victory. Friday night he was summoned by Derek Shelton in the top of the 5th inning, and, unfortunately, this outing did not go nearly as smooth.
After allowing a run in the 5th inning, he loaded the bases in the 6th inning after hitting a batter and walking a pair. Ex-Pirate Josh Bell then beat the shift by hitting a ground ball that snuck between shortstop and third base. The ground ball single by Bell scored a pair, extending the Washington lead to 7-2.
To Yajure’s credit he retired the Nationals in order in the 7th inning. Yajure also generated a game high 8 swings-and-misses while he was on the mound. While Yajure labored at times on Friday night you can see why the Pirates are high on him. Odds are Yajure will join the Pirate starting rotation, and that will likely happen some time soon.
Roberto Pérez exits the game
Pirate catcher Roberto Pérez took a foul ball to what appeared to be his left knee in the top of the 2nd inning. Following this Pérez would finish the inning in the field, before being pinch hit for by Andrew Knapp in the bottom half of the inning.
Shortly after Pérez exited the game the Pirates announced that he exited the game with a left quad contusion. Hopefully, Pérez will be fine moving forward. Early in the season he has done an excellent job defensively, as well as handling the Pirate pitching staff. He entered play on Friday ranking in the 92nd percentile of baseball in pitch framing.
Pérez is also off to strong start offensively, being 5-for-17 with 3 walks and a double. He has been hitting the ball hard, sitting in the 89th percentile of baseball in average exit velocity and 97th percentile in hard hit rate.
Losing Pérez for any extended period of time would be a big blow to the Pittsburgh Pirates. No offense to Knapp or Michael Pérez, who would likely replace Roberto on the active roster if this is an issue that will linger, but that would be a large drop off at the catcher position.
Game three of this four-game series is scheduled for 6:35 PM ET on Saturday night. Bryse Wilson (6.75 ERA, 6.02 FIP) is scheduled to start for the Pirates, while the Nationals are scheduled to send lefty Josh Rogers (1.69 ERA, 3.02 FIP) to the mound.