It’s early, hell it doesn’t even count yet, but pitching remains an issue for your Pittsburgh Pirates. It donned on me sometime in the 6th that unless you count Brault and Kuhl, the Bucs have yet to have a reliever toss a scoreless frame.
This trend would continue on this night as Cleveland teed off on Williams, Stratton, Rodriguez, and Feliz.
Now, Williams escaped trouble for the most part giving up solid contact regularly and being bailed out by Dyson and Heredia multiple times. Really nice plays and they prevented Williams from a slash line reflective of his outing.
Stratton was just cleaning up for Williams but gave up one of his own on top of allowing the inherited run. Rich Rod was a mess from the start, single, walk, blast. He and Crick both looking very much like the worst versions of themselves early on here.
Feliz actually had good stuff, but he still gave up a bullet to the wall that, um, veteran center fielder Cole Tucker tracked down, and nearly crippled himself in the process, nice catch, but whew. Then the bomb nobody could get.
Another theme that continues is the Pirates inability to score runs when runners reach third with less than two outs. The first time was when Dyson singled and stole second, a wild throw moved him to third, Newman and Reynolds failed to move him home. Again in the 7th the Bucs loaded the bases, which itself was a failure as Osuna slipped and should have scored. Nobody out and a weak ground ball, Tucker strikeout and Adam Frazier finally broke through drawing a walk to drag the Pirates back into the game making it 8-5.
To the plate came Josh Bell, who looked out of sorts all night from the left handed batters box but fluid and on time batting right, in fact earlier he bombed a homerun to right field and it looked effortless. This at bat would see him step up as a left hander again, and he rather quietly struck out to strand the bases loaded.
It’s early but Bell’s timing and swing were all over the place from that side. His stance noticeably changed from last game to this one, hopefully a sign of coaching and not his characteristic tinkering that has led to confusion in the past.
In the bottom of the seventh Neverauskas came in and started the inning the only way he knows how, a single and a ringing double that missed leaving the yard by no more than a foot or two. Luplow almost made him eat it again just missing a homer on a long fly to left that Brito tracked down. A hung breaking pitch later and another run was in making it 10-5. He provides a nice window into how different this management team could be, he clearly is not cutting it and is out of options, what do they do?
We head to the 8th and Colin Moran continued his hot start, leading off the inning with a homerun, balls were flying in Cleveland tonight. Evans followed with a Double and it was sharply hit, he’s not getting hits by accident, piling this on top of the homerun he hit earlier in the evening. Osuna reached on an infield hit and moved to second on an error that scored Evans. 10-7 Tribe.
At this point you’re thinking, this looks like last season, pitching can’t keep the runs down but the offense keeps fighting to make it a contest. Of course this also leads to those 10-1 blowouts that we became so accustomed to in 2019 when the bats fall silent.
A walk and an infield hit by Brito would load the bases for the Pirates again. Second inning in a row with the bases juiced and nobody out. Erik Gonzalez owner of another hot Bucco bat steps up and promptly strikes out. Sometimes these guys can just feel the theme of what you’re writing ya know? The job moved to Tucker who had already provided a nice play in the field, clearly he is not all the way there with his new swing, it doesn’t look comfortable, he too struck out, sensing a theme? Last chance in the 8th, Jacob Stallings steps up, and one thing you can say about Jacob, he takes a professional looking at bat, and knows the strike zone like Mozart got music. That said, this at bat would end in a groundout. Again, runner at third, no outs, no runs.
Next the Bucs would turn to Robbie Erlin, a NRI player who surely must be better than what we’ve seen, right? Yeah, nope, three pitches in Bauers absolutely demolished a ball left on left.
The pitching rightly steals the show in a game like this, you score 7 runs and hit 4 homeruns, you should win more games than you lose, but leaving at least three free runs sitting there waiting for a fly ball on a night where neither side could keep it in the park is a fundamental issue that has plagued this club for far too long.
Nobody is going to expect 100% conversion, but its got to become a heck of a lot more frequent. This wasn’t some hard luck situation where the bottom of the order was up and failed, this was three distinct sets of players and it must improve.
Tonight’s tilt ends 11-7 Indians and it could have been worse.