Monday night the Pittsburgh Pirates kicked off their three-game series in Washington D.C. by suffering a gut punch of a loss
Bad baseball teams have a way of managing to lose baseball games they should not lose. That has been the case for the Pittsburgh Pirates on their current road trip, a road trip they are now off to an 0-4 start on.
Monday night the Pittsburgh Pirates fell to the Washington Nationals 3-2, falling to 29-44 on the season. This was at least the third time on the trip that the Pirates snatched defeat away from the jaws of victory, and they could easily be 4-0 on the trip.
Miguel Yajure goes 4 scoreless
Making his first MLB appearance since May 1st, righty Miguel Yajure started on Monday night. The Pittsburgh Pirates were just looking to get as much length as they could out of Yajure, and had to be thrilled with his outing.
Yajure, who has not worked consistently as a starting pitcher since last season when he battled injuries all season long, stepped up and pitched 4 scoreless innings. He allowed 4 hit and walked 3 batters, but he did fail to record a strikeout.
To start the game Yajure issued a non-competitive walk. A Juan Soto base hit then put two National runners on base with no one out. After Yajure got Josh Bell to line into a double play, he began to settle in and gave the Pirates more than they could have asked for.
Oneil Cruz… my goodness
With two outs in the top of the 5th inning Oneil Cruz hit one of the most impressive line drive home runs you will ever see. Cruz took a pitch on the outside corner of the zone that most left handed hitters would have been lucky to roll over for a ground ball, and lined it into the seat.
The ball left Cruz’s bat at 109.8 MPH. Despite only having a launch angle of 19 degrees, it got over the wall in right-center field to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead. Once again, Cruz had the baseball world buzzing.
From hitting missiles, to running the bases, to displaying an incredible arm in the field, Cruz has done nothing but impress since returning to the majors last week. That continued with his home run on Monday night.
Josh VanMeter has a strong return to the lineup
Prior to the start of Monday’s game Josh VanMeter was activated off the injured list. He was then in the starting lineup for the Pirates, playing first base. While VanMeter has taken plenty of flack from fans, and there were plenty of upset fans he was starting on Monday night, he made an impact on his return to the lineup.
It did not take long for VanMeter to make an impact by snagging a line drive hit by Josh Bell that he then fired to second base for a 4-3 double play in the bottom of the 1st inning. Then in the top half of the 2nd inning, VanMeter hit a sacrifice fly to score Bligh Madris and give the Pirates an early 1-0 lead.
VanMeter made another strong defensive play later in the game by running a ball down in foul territory even as he was just about up against the netting. His second at-bat he lined a ball to left-center field that would have been a home run at most ballparks, and he collected a one-out double in the 9th inning to give the Pittsburgh Pirates an opportunity to tie the game.
8th inning home run sinks the Pirates
The Nationals did not get a lead until there were two outs in the 8th inning. This took place when Maikol Franco hit a two-out home run off of Chris Stratton. Franco’s 2-run shot gave the Nationals a 3-2 lead that they would hold onto in the 9th inning.
After Yajure, Yerry De Los Santos pitched 2 innings allowing a run. Stratton pitched a scoreless 7th inning and appeared to be on his way to doing it again in the 8th. While Stratton allowed a leadoff double in the 8th, he retired the next two batters. However, he then missed a spot on the home run hit by Franco. It was a painful way for the Pirates to take the loss.
There’s an argument to be made that leaving Stratton out there for the 8th inning was a mistake. After all, he does now have a 5.46 ERA on the season. That said, it’s unclear who was available out of the bullpen after the bullpen got a lot of work over the weekend in Tampa Bay. So it’s also possible that Derek Shelton’s hands were somewhat tied.
Game two of the series will see the Pirates send José Quintana (3.60 ERA, 371 FIP) who is coming off one of his best starts of the season to the mound. The Nats will counter with a veteran lefty of their own in Patrick Corbin (6.60 ERA, 4.97 FIP). First pitch from Nationals Park is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET.