Pittsburgh Pirates: Zach Thompson Struggles, 9th Inning Rally Comes Up Short
By Marty Leap
Thursday night, starting pitcher Zach Thompson struggled and a 9th inning rally came up jsut short for the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 8-7 loss
The winds of change blow across baseball every year at this time. As the trade deadline approaches, teams across MLB prepare for change. This most certainly includes the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pirate roster has already changed with Daniel Vogelbach being traded. More trades and changes will undoubtedly unfold in the coming days. Unfortunately, one thing that does not appear to be changing for the Pirates is the continued struggles of their pitching staff.
Thursday night Pirate pitchers allowed 8 runs on 15 hits in a 8-7 loss against the Philadelphia Phillies. This loss started their four-game weekend series on a sour note, and dropped the Pirates to 40-59 on the season. Since returning from the All-Star Break, the Pirates are now just 1-5.
Zach Thompson walloped by Phillies bats
While Zach Thompson was hurt by some poor 1st inning defense that contributed to a 3-run opening frame for the Phillies, he struggled mightily throughout his start. This led to the Pittsburgh Pirates falling behind early and finding themselves in a hole they could not dig out of.
Thompson allowed 11 hits that left Philly bats traveling all east 101.8 MPH. He also allowed three other hits that left the bat traveling at least 91.2 MPH. There is no defense for a pitcher allowing one missile after another.
In 5.2 innings pitched Thompson allowed 7 earned runs on a career-high 11 hits. While he did not walk a batter and struck out four, he also allowed a moon shot to NL home run leader Kyle Schwarber. The home run that Schwarber hit, his 32nd of the season, ended Thompson’s day with the Pirates trailing 7-0. Thompson now owns a 5.09 ERA, 5.23 FIP, and a 1.55 HR/9 this season. His average opposing exit velocity of 88.4 MPH and hard hit rate allowed of 40.1% are both going to climb as well.
At this point there is nothing wrong with the Pirates continuing to give Thompson the ball every five days. They may as well let Thompson continue to make starts and eat innings down the stretch. That said, it is clear his long-term MLB future is not as a starting pitcher.
Cal Mitchell has a big night
Prior to the 9th inning, the only runs scored by the Pirates came in the 7th inning. They were scored when designated hitter Cal Mitchell launched a 2-run home run that scored Bligh Madris. The rookie’s 3rd home run of the season, and his MLB career, cut an 8-0 Phillies lead to 8-2.
This was part of a three-hit night for Mitchell. While he has just a .216/.254/.342 slash line and a 66 wRC+ this season, these results have come in just 117 plate appearances. Furthermore, Mitchell entered the night with an above league average exit velocity (89.7 MPH) and hard hit rate (39.2%). Mitchell has shown some good things this season and deserves to continue to get at-bats over the course of the final two months of the campaign.
9th inning rally comes up short
Thursday was the 21st anniversary of one of the most exciting regular season games/moments in the history of the Pittsburgh Pirates. On July 28th, 2022, the Pirates overcame a 8-2 9th inning deficit, rallying to defeat the Houston Astros on a walk-off grand slam by Brian Giles.
Facing the struggling Jeurys Familia, the Pirates damn near did it again.
With one out in the inning Greg Allen and Mitchell hit back-to-back singles. After Josh VanMeter walked, Tyler Heineman singled to cut the Phillies lead to 8-4. Newman then hit a 2-run triple, making the score 8-6 Phillies.
Newman’s triple brought Familia’s night to an end. Seranthony Dominguez replaced Familia, and got Oneil Cruz to ground out. However, Cruz’s ground out scored Newman and pulled the Pirates within a run. Ke’Bryan Hayes then flew out to right field, ending both the game and his 13 game on base streak.
As of now José Quintana (3.70 ERA, 3.27 FIP) is scheduled to start for the Pittsburgh Pirates in game two of the series. However, it would not be a surprise to see him traded before the start. Lefty Bailey Falter (5.18 ERA, 6.18 FIP) is slated to start for Philadelphia. First pitch from PNC Park is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET.