Defense continues to be a major issue
We discussed it during the team's hot start, but the Pirates have played poor defense most of the season. During their 20-8 start it did not really burn the team at all. However, during their 1-9 skid poor defense has hurt them repeatedly.
The poor defense continued into their series loss against the Rockies. In their 10-1 loss the Rockies were able to grab an early 4-1 lead due to a fielding error on Tucupita Marcano at shortstop. While the error came after Carlos Santana's throw hit the hand of a baserunner, it was still a ball Marcano needed to stop from going into the outfield. This led to only 2 of the 5 runs Luis Ortiz allowed in his start to be earned.
Later in that game, Marcano made a very poor decision to fire a relay throw home with no chance to get the runner out while. On that play Marcano had a runner dead to rights at third base. That led to more Colorado runs. Jason Delay also missed a pop up in foul territory that led to Rockie runs.
Game two was a 10-1 loss. It's hard to point at one thing that went wrong in that lopsided of a defeat. That said, if the Pirates had played a cleaner defensive game and not fallen into an early 5-1 to hole the game could have gone much differently.
In game three the Pirates got off to a strong start. jumping out to a 3-0 lead after 3 innings. It appeared they might be able to exhale some on their way to a less stressful victory to capture the series. Well, this is where poor defense would show up once again.
With two outs in the 4th inning and the Pirates lead 3-1, starting pitcher Rich Hill failed to convert a routine ground ball hit back to him for an out. Hill's error extended the inning, and was followed by a pair of base hits that led to 2 unearned runs.
The error also led to the end of Hill's day. He wound up being pulled after allowing the back-to-back run-scoring hits. Hill was pulled after throwing just 75 pitches with two outs in the 4th inning. Hill did not appear pleased with Derek Shelton's decision, but it was no one's fault but Hill.
Unearned runs are always costly, but even more so when you lose 4-3. Moving forward the Pirates absolutely must clean up their defense. Playing clean defense is made even more important by the current struggling state of the Pirate lineup.