The Pirates came into this game riding a four game losing streak and that background heading to Minnesota to face a 7-2 Twins club created an impending sense that any semblance of hope to see improvement impossible to fathom.
The line up continues to mystify, tenth game, tenth different set up. Feelings of dread lifted a bit on the first pitch of the game as Cole Tucker cranked it into left field to give the Bucs an early lead. They would continue to build on it a run at a time leading to a 4-0 sixth inning advantage.
Derek Holland pitched a great ballgame. Derek Holland also gave up 4 earned runs in 5.2 innings on 4 hits and two walks. That’s the line, and if you were watching the Penguins instead like most of Pittsburgh you probably think he blew it. Here’s the real story.
Holland pitched 5 innings of shutout, 2 hit ball. Walked a guy in the sixth and gave up a run scoring single. He walked another and with two outs got a linedrive to center that Center fielder Cole Tucker misplayed badly, breaking in and watching it sail over his head. Two runs scored on the, um, hit. Then Shelton with two men on and two outs called on Del Pozo, again. Walk, Walk, wild pitch, run, walk, and done. Stratton in and a great catch from Reynolds who is at least contributing with the glove, more on that later.
I realize fully that the bullpen is bad. I realize Shelton could use anyone and fans would sign. Del Pozo in this situation after your starter gives you a hell of an effort, riding a four game losing streak is a bad look. Holland buried his head on the bench as his night fell apart. People toss around that a player is not a major leaguer with far too much frequency, so trust me when I say, Del Pozo is no major leaguer. Even on this team, even with this many injuries. I’ve quite possibly not seen anyone struggle to hit the zone with anything since Rick Ankiel got the yips.
This game had some nice moments from the offense. Bell had a hit and looked good at the plate most of the night, Newman is getting dialed in but another bonehead move on the base paths trying to stretch a single into a double.
Bryan Reynolds continued to struggle, and he’s not snake bitten. He’s simply not making contact. Victimized all season on pitches up in the zone and showing impatience not characteristic of what he showed last season. Listen, I’m not saying the guy is a bum, but right now, if I had a big pinch hit scenario, and a manager who would recognize and use one, he wouldn’t be in my top 8. ON THIS TEAM. And I’m not joking, he’s that out of sorts. Erik Gonzalez has had more hard contact this season. Need I go on?
The top of the 8th saw Rodriguez take the mound and he gave up a single to Kepler, then Jacob Stallings tried to catch him straying and threw the ball into right field moving the runner up to second. Rodriguez struck out his second of the frame and got Byron Buxton to pop out to Bell.
On to the ninth and the Twins send out Taylor Rogers who looks frighteningly like Tony Watson with his delivery. Heredia loves hitting lefty’s and got himself a second knock on the day to lead off the inning but nothing would come of it.
In the bottom of the inning the Pirates brought in Nick Burdi, which is great. This is a good move, unfortunately the Del Pozo call earlier in the contest made this an attempt to get to another extra inning contest. He started the inning giving up a single to Polanco and a walk to Garver. Arraez drove a ball to the gap and Tucker almost ran into Heredia but the catch was made. Both runners advance to 2nd and 3rd on the play with one out. Nelson Cruz wins the game on a sacrifice fly.
5-4 Twins. Five game losing streak. 2-8 and you get the feeling this was another one given away. Tough stuff, back at it tomorrow afternoon.
News & Notes:
- Del Pozo at the very least should never see a purposeful leverage inning again. If things are desperate enough with injuries that he needs to remain on the club at least he should not be used to hold a lead. I don’t believe they’re tanking but Del Pozo is a walking billboard for the people preaching it.
- Whatever is off with Bryan Reynolds its small. He’s off time or off plane just enough. In a normal season you’d chalk it up to a rough start, this season is just about 20% through. It’s probably a small adjustment and in many ways he’s a victim of his own success last season, but he needs to turn it around.
- Cole Tucker is noticeably better from the right side. His swing looks more managed and he seems to be more patient. It’s rare for a switch hitter to take better to the right side because you just see so many more pitches from the left.
- Derek Holland could really be a find, at least in the class of a Jordan Lyles, which is a real win if he continues to pitch like this. A four pitch mix and when he has them all working he can be formidable. Good to see.
- This was the Pirates third extra inning contest
- Two noticeable gaffes for Tucker in Center tonight. One costing the club two runs directly and the other preventing Heredia from being able to set up to hold the runners. It’s possible they move up anyway but Tucker took that possibility away.