A poor offensive performance by the Pittsburgh Pirates wasted a strong start from Roansy Contreras in a 2-1 loss on Monday night
Monday night the struggles and woes of the Pittsburgh Pirates continued in a 2-1 loss against the Atlanta Braves. With the loss the Pirates are now 3-14 in their last 17 games played, dropping their overall record on the season to 47-75.
With this loss the Pittsburgh Pirates are now on pace for their second consecutive 100 loss season. It bares repeating that things do not appear to be getting any better for the Pirates in year three of this so called rebuild.
Strong start from Roansy Contreras
Monday night was Roansy Day in Pittsburgh as Roansy Contreras toes the rubber for the Pittsburgh Pirates. After scuffling some in his last start, Contreras flashed his promise as he turned in a strong start.
Contreras pitched 7 innings, limiting the Braves to just 2 runs on four hits, three walks and five strikeouts. He generated 12 swings-and-misses, and the lone runs he allowed came on a two-run home by Michael Harris II in the 5th inning.
This start appears to be a big step forward for Contreras. He did a great job mixing up his pitches and keeping Atlanta batters off balance. Two fine examples of this came when he twice had Dansby Swanson way out in front of a slider, resulting in an easy fly out.
Oneil Cruz home run accounts for lone Pirate run
Shortstop Oneil Cruz has been in a slump at the plate of late. This has led to a lot of concern among Pirate fans. Much of Cruz’s struggles have appeared to come from a poor approach at the plate where he has not been aggressive enough.
These issues continued to plague Cruz early in the game Monday night. In his second bat, however, Cruz took a violent swing at a 1-1 Jake Odorizzi pitch and proceeded to launch it over the Clemente Wall. Cruz’s solo home run cut the Atlanta lead to 2-1 as his 10th home run of the season accounted for the lone Pirate run.
Cruz needs to be more aggressive at the plate. This would go a long way toward leading to more success at the plate, especially as it would likely help prevent him from falling behind in the count as often as he does. When Cruz was first promoted to the majors he was aggressive at the plate and it led to success, it’s time for the Pittsburgh Pirates coaching staff to help Cruz get back to that approach.
Good work from the Pirate bullpen
Asking relievers to do too much has been a major issue for Pirate manager Derek Shelton all season long. Two pitchers he has frequently tried to squeeze a second inning out of it with it ending poorly after they pitched a clean inning have been Duane Underwood Jr. and Wil Crowe.
Monday night, Shelton managed things differently. He asked both Underwood Jr. and Crowe to pitch just 1 inning each and it produced successful results. Underwood Jr. pitched a 1-2-3 8th inning and Crowe followed with a 1-2-3 9th inning.
With Shelton likely to return as Pirate manager next season, one area he needs to vastly improve is with not asking relievers to do too much. Hopefully, Monday night was the start of Shelton coming around on that front. That said, this would also be easy for Shelton to do if he was given a deeper, more talented bullpen to work with.
Game two of the series on Tuesday night will see JT Brubaker (4.19 ERA, 368 FIP) is slated to toe the rubber for the Pittsburgh Pirates, while Max Fried (2.60 ERA, 2.50 FIP) is scheduled to start for the Atlanta Braves. First pitch from PNC Park is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET.