It wasn't easy, it most certainly was not pretty, but the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the lowly Oakland A's 5-4 for their sixth straight win
Baseball is not always pretty. That was the was the case for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night. Playing arguably the worst team in MLB history the Pirates had to fight, scratch, and claw for a victory, but they got that victory.
Following a 5-4 victory over the now 12-50 Oakland A's the Pirates are now 32-27 on the season. This victory gave the Pirates six wins in a row. With the Milwaukee Brewers losing to the Cincinnati Reds the victory also put the Pirates back into first place in the Natioanl League Central division.
Pirates struggle against JP Sears
The Oakland A's are not a good team. That said, JP Sears is a very solid starting pitcher. The Pittsburgh Pirates saw that on Monday night as the lefty took a no hitter into the 5th inning and kept the Pirates off the scoreboard until that same inning.
Although Sears was limiting base hits he struggled mightily with his control. Sears issued a career high five walks, including two walks each in the 1st and 2nd inning. However, the Pirate offense struggled to capitalize on the arly wildness from Sears as they started the game 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.
Leading off the 5th inning the Pirates finally got to Sears for a hit when Mark Mathias, who was one base three times, singled. Later in the inning, he scored when Connor Joe hit a bloop double to shallow right field on a ball that likely should have been caught.
Sears allowed just two hits in 4.2 innings pitched, but had his day end early due ot five walks and going over 110 pitches thrown. Credit to the Pirate hitters for making Sears have to work as much as he did to chase him from the game early.
A's go full A's in the 6th inning
If you want to see why the A's are on pace to lose 130 games just go watch the bottom of the 6th inning.
Oakland pitching issued four walks in the 6th inning. This was part of a 10 walk night for the Oakland pitching staff. These four consecutive walks included walks to Andrew McCutchen and Bryan Reynolds to tie the game at 3.
With one out and the bases still loaded Jack Suwinski then hti a fly ball to shallow right field. With slow footed catcher Austin Hedges on third base it was not even clear if Mike Rabelo would send Hedges. Well, Rabelo sent Hedges while Oakland right fielder Seth Brown made the mind boggingly poor decision to throw the ball toward third base.
Brown's decision was honest to God one of the worst I have ever witnessed from a real life Major Leauge Baseball player. While McCutchen was thrown out attempting to go from second to third, it lalowed Hedges to score to give the Pirates their first lead of the night at 4-3.
Johan Oviedo turns in another strong start
Very quietly, Johan Oviedo has had a strong season for the Pirates. His strong start to the season continued on Monday night, although it was a bit overlooked due to what else was happening in the game and a bit of a rocky start for Oviedo.
The 1st inning has been a major issue for Oviedo this season. Monday night he allowed anotehr 1st inning run, but this one was unearned due to Austin Hedges being called for his third catcher's interference of the season.
Oviedo allowed a pair of runs in the 3rd inning. Although, he did do a good job of damage control in the inning. The first three Oakland batters of the inning reached and the A's had runners on second and third with no one out, but Oviedo wiggled off the hook allowing just the 2 runs. This was thanks to a great play on a lineout by Carlos Santana to turn an inning ending double play.
After this, Oviedo would settle in. The young righty went on to allowed just 2 earned runs just three hits. Oviedo hit a batter, walked two, and struck out five. He retired the final eight batters he faced and generated nine swings-and-misses.
Oviedo has now allowed 31 earned runs in 65 innings pitched across 12 starts this inning. 13 of those runs came in back-to-back poor outings in his final start of April and first start of May. Outisde of those two starts, Oviedo has quielty been very good for the Pirates this season.
Poor 8th inning bullpen management by Derek Shelton backfires
With the Pirates leading 4-3, Derek Shelton decided to hand the ball to Rob Zastryzny in the 8th inning. The second this move was made it was a very questionable one and it did not take long to backfire on Shelton.
Zastrzyny issued a walk to start the inning then allowed a run-scoring double to Aledmys Diaz to tie the game. Following a lineout and a walk, Zastrzyny was pulled for fellow lefty Angel Perdomo. Continuing the strong start to his Pirate career, Perdomo got a strikeout and fly out to end the inning. This came after Perdomo hit a batter to load the bases with just one out.
This season has not been a good one for Zastryzny. He now owns a 5.73 ERA, 4.47 FIP, and a 9:7 BB:K ratio in 11.0 innings pitched this season. Zastryzny is showing why he was available as a minor league free agent this offseason and his time in the Pirate bullpen needs to come to an end.
Pirates rally in the bottom of the 8th
It did not take the Pirates long to rally in the bototm of the 8th inning.
Ji Hwan Bae reached on an infield single and went to third on a base hit by Austin Hedges. As a side, a shoutout to Hedges. He had mutliple hits on Sunday, and then three strong at-bats on Monday including this hit and a walk.
With one out and runners on the corners, McCutchen drove the ball to right field. While he just missed putting the ball off or over the Clemente Wall, it was enough for a sacrifice fly to give the Pirates the lead back at 5-4.
It was a weird night at the plate for McCutchen. Still in search of his 400th career double and 2,000th hit, Cutch became just the fifth Pirate hitter since 1900 to have three walks, two RBI and not hits in a game.
Defense picks up Colin Holderman in the 9th
In search of his first MLB save, Colin Holderman was shaky in the 9th inning. However, his defense picked him up more than once. This strong defense led to Holderman posting a zero to pick up his first career save.
MLB steals leader Esteury Ruiz singled to start the inning. Everyone knew he would run. Ruiz got a great jump as he broke for second base, but Holderman was quick to the plate and Hedges fired a bullet to second base. Tucupita Marcano made a tremendous tag, and Ruiz was out.
This proved vital.
Ryan Noda hit a ground rule double that would have scored Ruiz had he been safe. A Brent Rooked bloop hit then fell into center field. On the hit, Bae made a tremendous play to get the ball into the infield in a hurry to precent Noda from scoring. Holderman then got a strikeout to end the game.
Tuesday night the Pirates will send their ace to the mond in search of a series victory. Mitch Keller (3.25 ERA, 2.86 FIP) is set to start for the Bucs. Struggling righty James Kaprielian (8.12 ERA, 5.83 FIP) will start for the A's. First pitch from PNC Park is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET.