When all things were said and done, you could barely recognize the outcome if you only watched the beginning. I joked on Twitter I almost felt the need to write two game stories it was such a definitive break and then more action.
Here’s the funny part, it also happens to be the order it happened in. Chad Kuhl got the start tonight on a set inning and pitch count limit with Brault to follow. Just like every time they’ve used the piggy back approach to stretching these guys out but reversed.
Chad put his foot down immediately. Striking out the side in order blowing 97mph gas by hitters and keeping them off balance with a dynamic 83mph curve ball. Just filthy. He gave up a home run to Cron but aside from that was untouched as he struck out 7 in four innings of work.
Eric Gonzalez made his presence felt early and often, starting his evening with a two run single up the middle to get the lead back for Pittsburgh and later absolutely destroying a baseball 463 feet to deep left field for a two run jack making it 4-1.
OK, so after that the bright spots were few and far between. Steven Brault came in and didn’t have it. You know, the way Brault doesn’t have it when he’s off. Yeah, that kind of off.
Here’s his line, 0.0 innings pitched, 3 hits, 3 walks, 4 earned runs. Then Geoff Hartlieb came in with the bases loaded and did well to only give up one more as he cleaned up Brault’s mess but the one he surrendered was another walk. Three runs on walks in this inning alone.
The next inning Phillip Evans followed a heating up Bryan Reynolds single with a three run homerun into the bullpen. 7-5 Bucs. But everyone knew the bullpen was coming.
The Bucs turned to Rios who got through an inning then when asked to give the club two He came out and loaded the bases with no outs. To make matters worse the Pirates went with Del Pozo, who gave up the three runs he inherrited and three more as the Pirates asked for two from him as well. 12-7 Tigers.
Let’s take a break right here from the game. I understand the bullpen is half dead. I get that a whole bunch of people are injured. I know they aren’t all going to be passable, but Del Pozo is the worst Pirates pitcher I’ve ever seen. This simply can’t continue, for any reason. There are times when someone soils your uniform and logo so badly they must simply never wear it again. We’re officially there with this guy. Nothing personal, but this isn’t a MLB pitcher, he might not even belong in MiLB. The bullpen is a problem and you can shuffle the deck chairs however you like, but if you have an outhouse, its going to smell like excrement at some point.
In the 8th the Bucs made more noise, Reynolds hit his second Bryan Reynolds looking laser of the game and with two on Gonzalez ripped another ball this one for a double making it 12-9. Love the try here but it has to get demoralizing knowing you can’t possibly keep up with what that bullpen is doing to the scoreboard.
In the ninth the Pirates turned to Richard Rodriguez. It was 12-9 so in a normal year I’d tell you this was to keep the score in reach, right now, he might be the only one left available. Regardless of why, Rich Rod did the job and kept it a three run game.
In the bottom of the ninth Reynolds would record another rocket base hit, Evans rapped another single to score him. The Pirates pinch ran Dyson for Evans and Frazier came to the plate as the tying run. Boom. Frazier tied it at 12.
Remember when I said I loved that try?
Polanco came up as a pinch hitter and just missed winning it with a fly ball deep.
Unbelievably, extra innings again for the Pirates.
In the top of the tenth the Bucs would turn to Nik Turley. He struck out the first batter and a basehit to right followed, Tucker put a perfect throw to the plate but Murphy couldn’t hold it. 13-12 Tigers. Turley finished them off and we see how many more theatrics this Bucs team has in it tonight.
The bottom began with Erik Gonzalez who was already 3-4 and a triple shy of the cycle with 6 RBI. Murphy on second Gonzalez singled to right. Runners at 1st and 3rd. Tucker stepped in 0-5 and he drove one to center scoring Murphy. 13-13 and we’re poised for more baseball. Gonzalez still at first, Newman flew out and Bell came to the plate and stroked one up the middle for Colin Moran. At this point he was 0-5 but nobody will remember that is he can get one here.
On to the 11th. The Bucs went with Neverauskas, and FYI, I never wanted to get this good at spelling his name. He began with a strikeout, then a sharp single making it 14-13. Killer play by Gonzalez saved a run and got an out, Murphy threw to second wild allowing the runner to move to third on a steal attempt, then another base hit made it 15-13.
But wait there’s more. Another double and two more runs make it 17-13.
In the bottom the Bucs would finally give up the ghost.
Final Tigers 17, Pirates 13
30 runs, 32 hits combined. 5 hours and 38 minutes.
News & Notes:
- Steven Brault was simply not himself tonight. Sure it looked familiar but not remotely close to what we watched in the second half of 2019 and early this one. Tonight nothing was working and he didn’t record an out in the fifth.
- Chad Kuhl was touching 97 on the gun with the gas and dropping curves in at 83 with a complimentary 87-89 mph slider. Chad Kuhl if kept healthy is a real pitcher, and a real worthwhile starter. Key being keep him healthy, 4 innings and 60+ pitches was his mark and he hit it. Seeing people lose their minds might want to remind themselves Burdi just showed the Pirates were right to be cautious and it still wasn’t enough.
- When you sign a depth player in December as a minor league free agent, you hardly expect to get Phillip Evans out of it. Hey, I’ve seen Rafael Belliard get hot for a week or two, but Evans is a nice find as a utility guy. Could be a good get. Let’s give it time.
- The Piggy back thing is necessary because the two guys (well four if you count Ponce and Brubaker) aren’t stretched out. Five innings would be a blessing. The bullpen even if populated with good pitchers would be in trouble at this rate.
- If I told you Erik Gonzalez is shooting his shot. And I have to say, he’s making one hell of a case. If Adam Frazier continues to sputter, don’t be shocked if Erik doesn’t just win the SS spot. And no, its not the homerun. He’s consistently had some of the top exit velocity in the league and plays the best SS on the club, including Tucker.
- Shelton was ejected and Don Kelly brought in Del Pozo with the bases loaded. Man I guess it’s not just one guy making a bad call.
- There have been a disturbing amount of cross ups lately. Stallings and Murphy both have struggled with it and it honestly makes no sense. The signs can’t possibly be that complicated. If they are, fix it.
- If Kela comes off the IL and anyone other than Del Pozo goes, I’m officially out of answers. Honestly, I’d DFA him right now, there is a limit to what should be seen in your uniform.
- Reynolds went 3 for 5 with a walk tonight, more importantly, these were Bryan Reynolds hits. You know what I mean. He’s standing up ever so slightly taller and it’s working. The bat is really sped up and the stance allows him to get to the high fastball.
- One theme I saw tonight was a concerted effort to beat the shift. Evans, Reynolds, Bell, Newman, Gonzalez and Frazier all did it at one point this evening. I think this is the next big thing in baseball, players starting to realize they’re hitting into outs and trying to go get them when presented. The first team to break the mold and coach it will be the trend setter. Hoping its the Bucs.
- Moran is living off his start. He’s quietly slumping hard right now and went 0-6 tonight.