After falling behind early, the Pittsburgh Pirates offense came alive after a slow start and the bullpen held strong in a 5-4 victory to complete a sweep of the San Diego Padres
It was a strange afternoon at PNC Park, to say the least. The series finale between the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres was delayed by 45 minutes on Thursday afternoon because of unhealthy air quality surrounding the city of Pittsburgh.
A handful of Pirate players commented to express their concern, most notably Andrew McCutchen.
Despite these concerns, the game was played and gave the Bucs the opportunity to grab their first sweep in quite a while. After falling behind 4-0 after an early Padres rally that included two home runs from Trent Grisham and Ha-Seong Kim, the Bucs could have easily rolled over given the circumstances.
Luis Ortiz definitely didn't have his best command this afternoon, and it showed as he issued three walks in 4.2 innings as the Padres tagged him for six hits, including the aforementioned home runs. He also didn't record a single strikeout, which is not what you would expect from the young right-hander.
After the Bucs had runners on second and third with nobody out in the bottom of the 4th inning, it looked as if they were on track for a big inning. However, they only managed to bring one of the runs in via a Nick Gonzales sacrifice fly, and it appeared as though they had squandered a golden opportunity.
They continued to chip away, though. In the bottom of the 6th, rookie sensation Henry Davis smacked a line drive into left field to score McCutchen, who doubled to lead off the inning. Cutch certainly didn't let his pregame concerns affect his play, as he stayed scorching hot at the plate going 2 for 4 this afternoon.
The Pirates completed the comeback in the bottom of the 7th when old friend Joe Musgrove was pulled for left-handed reliever Tim Hill. Hill issued a lead off walk to pinch hitter Rodolfo Castro, which was followed up by a hard hit single up the middle from Jared Triolo. Triolo also flashed his glove multiple times throughout Thursday's game, making multiple difficult plays look routine in Ke'Bryan Hayes-esque fashion.
After a Jason Delay lineout, the Bucs tied the game when Jack Suwinski reached via an infield single, which Hill fielded and then threw into left field. It was a huge blunder by Hill, who had no chance of getting Suwinski out even with a perfect throw.
The error allowed both runners to score in what turned out to be a catastrophic inning for the Padres. The comeback was completed when Davis tallied his 3rd hit of the day, a single to right field, scoring Suwinski.
Multiple bullpen arms contribute
After Ortiz was pulled in the 5th inning, manager Derek Shelton went to left-hander Ryan Borucki, who has struggled mightily in his short time with the Pirates. However, he finished out the 5th and pitched a clean 1-2-3 6th to keep the Bucs within striking distance.
Dauri Moreta followed, who has had some struggles of his own lately. He looked good today, though, with a walk to Juan Soto (who does that often) being the only blemish in a scoreless 7th.
Another left-hander in Angel Perdomo followed Moreta, who looked to be on pace for a dominant top of the 8th after striking out Jake Cronenworth and Brandon Dixon back to back.
However, Shelton ultimately made the right move in going to the Pirates soon to be named All-Star closer David Bednar after a Kim double. Bednar ended the Padre threat in the 8th very quickly, striking out Trent Grisham swinging on four pitches.
After an uncharacteristic walk to lead off the top of the 9th, Bednar went right back to work to strike out San Diego superstars Fernando Tatis Jr. and Juan Soto back-to-back. The Pirates pitchers all seemingly had Tatis' number, in particular, these past few days, who only recorded a single hit in 14 at-bats during the three games.
A Manny Machado groundout to Triolo would wrap things up on Thursday evening, capping off a dominant performance from the Pirate bullpen, where four different pitchers combined for 4.1 shutout innings to help finish the sweep.
Henry Davis impresses once again
Davis continued to show today why he's going to be a future star for the Pirates. After starting his big-league career 1 for 10 in his first series vs. the Cubs, he's on a 7-game hitting streak and slashing .444/.483/.593 since. He collected 3 more hits today and drove in the go-ahead run in the 7th inning to complete the comeback for the Pirates.
He's brought a special kind of energy to the team that can't really be quantified, but it certainly is something that the Pirates have sorely needed in recent weeks. He's been everything Pirates fans could have hoped for and then some, and looks like he will be a fan favorite for years to come.
Props to Shelton for almost immediately moving him to the third spot in the lineup, because it's been painfully obvious before this series that the Pirates have lacked some juice in the heart of the order, especially with Reynolds sidelined.
Ji Hwan Bae continues to struggle
After going 0-2 today and subsequently being pinch hit for in the 7th inning, Pirates utilityman Ji Hwan Bae has gone 0 for his last 26 at the plate, which is the longest active hitless streak in Major League Baseball. We saw his frustrations boil over on Tuesday when he was very swiftly ejected mid-at-bat in the series opener, and it seems that not much has changed since. He's not making enough contact to put his speed to use and just looks lost at the plate as a whole in many of his at-bats.
He simply cannot be in the Pirates' lineup right now, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him sent to Triple-A Indianapolis as one of the corresponding moves with Reynolds, Ji Man Choi, and Colin Holderman all nearing returns.
The Pirates will begin an important weekend series with the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday, hopefully with Bryan Reynolds back in the lineup. Osvaldo Bido (3.45 ERA, 2.95 FIP) is scheduled to start the opener for the Bucs. Freddy Peralta (4.65 ERA, 4.68 FIP) will take the mound for the Brewers. First pitch from PNC Park is set for 7:05 PM ET.