The Pirates had a lot of firsts in this game, the first rain delay, the first piggyback start, the first blown save, the first extra inning action and finally we saw the honeymoon for Derek Shelton at least come back to Earth a bit.
Sure, its early to lay a judgement on Shelton, and I’m certainly not trying to forecast his career because of one game, but it’s so rare to be able to directly lay a win or a loss at the feet of the manager that when it happens it gets your attention.
The night started off under the specter that MLB could come to a screeching halt after the Marlins had an outbreak of COVID cases. Steven Brault started his half of the piggyback start and had it stunted at two innings by a rain delay.
Immediately following the rain Colin Moran gave the Bucs the lead with a bomb over the Clemente Wall. A 1-0 lead that would hold as Chad Kuhl gave the Pirates 4 scoreless and looked incredible doing it. Mixing his pitches and hitting his spots. Nik Turley did allow the Brewers to tie the game in the seventh and Richard Rodriguez pitched a scoreless frame to preserve the lead Colin Moran helped get back with another bomb, this one landing in the river.
The Pirates headed into the ninth with a 5-1 lead and then everything fell apart.
Let’s backtrack just a little, because most of the questions that this game spawned came from the dugout. As I mentioned Colin Moran hit a second homerun and at this point the Pirates had a 2-1 lead, a walk and an error put two on the bases and the Brewers went to hard throwing lefty Alex Claudio who promptly struck out Gregory Polanco.
Now some people had questions about that decision, leaving Polanco in to face the tough lefty was a gamble and in isolation it would be just that but let’s keep going. Claudio walked the next batter to load the bases and Jarrod Dyson stepped up with two outs and the bases juiced.
Dyson hasn’t had a hit against a lefty is quite some time, it seemed a perfect opportunity to get Phillip Evans, or well, any right-handed batter really to take the at bat. Shelton stuck with Dyson and he came through driving in two runs and opening the score. The Bucs would tack on another but just because something works doesn’t mean it makes sense.
Expanded rosters have put more options at the finger of the skipper, worked out or no, Dyson was not the best option there. But hey, two runs, no harm no foul right? That’s a whole lot of being a manager, not every decision is perfect but most of the time it evens out.
Look at it this way and Shelty was ahead of the game at this point, unfortunately he pushed all the chips in and bet it all on Michael Feliz.
Here we are, ninth inning, Bucs up by 4 and a clean sheet for Feliz. He struggled. A single, walk, strikeout, and another single loaded the bases. It was pretty clear Michael didn’t have whatever Shelton hoped and having no knowledge Burdi was unavailable it seemed obvious to get him up. Even so Feliz remained and this almost worked out for Shelton too as Yelich hit a grounder to first, Josh Bell either didn’t trust his arm throwing to second or misread the play so instead of a game ending double play and a Pirates win the inning continued with runners at second and third and two outs.
Now Shelton brings in Kyle Crick and the ending was damn near written; Braun stroked a single to left after narrowly avoiding a slider that didn’t slide on Crick’s first pitch tying the game.
There were other options, Stratton, Brubaker, Holmes, Erlin, someone. Crick just does not have whatever he had in 2018 and the most obvious thing beside control is velocity. Something is wrong, I’m no doctor, not a sports psychologist but the Pirates don’t have 162 games to help him figure it out. Not much more demoralizing for a young club than blowing games they have no business losing.
This team isn’t good to say the least but considering the possibility, hell likelihood, that several under .500 teams will make the playoffs in this shortened and odd season, squandering starting pitching like they got last night can’t go unnoticed.
Shelton will make a ton of decisions throughout his career, I have no doubt for the most part they’ll even out, but on this night, he raised more questions than he answered.
News & Notes:
- Obviously, everyone wanted to understand why Nick Burdi wasn’t brought in for the ninth. Shelton after the game said he wasn’t available due to being careful with him returning from the injury he suffered in 2019. Now, if he can’t pitch back to back games after an eleven-pitch outing, chances are he simply can’t pitch back to back games, at least not for now.
- Colin Moran continues to impress, drilling 2 homeruns and in general just looking strong at the plate. He looks confident in all situations and defensively replacing him in the ninth is another Shelton decision you could rightly question. Sure, would have been nice for him to come up with a runner at third and one out in the eleventh instead of Egon.
- Chad Kuhl looked strong. Placing his pitches with both the fastball and his breaking stuff. It played against lefty’s too which prior to injury was his biggest struggle.
- Steven Brault was a bit wild, no telling how deep he gets into the game if there were no rain delay but I suspect we’d be reading a completely different story today without one.