If you would have told me on Friday afternoon that the Pirates offense would score 18 runs in the first two games of the series versus Detroit, 3 more than they put up in the previous 4 games against the Twins, there is no way I would have have thought they were facing a sweep at the hands of the Tigers on Sunday afternoon at PNC Park. However, this was the case as Steven Brault took the mound for Pittsburgh in place of Joe Musgrove, who was scratched from his start on Saturday afternoon due to ankle soreness. In his previous appearance as a part of the “piggyback” with Chad Kuhl on Friday evening, Brault allowed 4 earned on 3 hits and 3 walks, without recording a single out.
In the top of the first Brault looked as if he had turned things around by executing a 1-2-3 inning, including a strike out of Miguel Cabrera. Almost immediately the second inning got a little hairy as he walked and hit consecutive batters to put runners on first and second with one out. After a mound visit by Oscar Marin, Brault was able to induce a double play from Victor Reyes to end the threat and ultimately his day as Chris Stratton would replace him to start the 3rd.
Facing his first batter of the series, Stratton, looked a little rusty, allowing a leadoff double to catcher Austin Romine. He quickly settled down and in, striking out the next three Tigers, all swinging. He would go on to strike out two more hitters in the 4th and Christin Stewart to lead off the 5th before giving up a double to Reyes and a single to Romine, both on sliders; allowing Detroit to score their first run of the game and the first run against Stratton since the July 28th contest versus Milwaukee.
For Detroit, Spencer Turnbull would take the hill, trying to continue his strong start to the 2020 season. After going 3-17 last year with a 4.61 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP, Turnbull had turned things around to begin the year; posting a 1.93 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in his first 3 starts. Through the first three innings on Sunday, Turnbull was able to battle and avoid giving up a run, but his luck would run out in the 4th as Colin Moran crossed the plate on a sharply hit ball by Erik Gonzalez.
With the score tied at one entering the 6th, the Pirates would turn to their third pitcher of the day, Geoff Hartlieb, who cruised through the first half of the inning by striking out two and not allowing a hit. The Tigers stuck with Turnbull and he rewarded them with a quick 1-2-3 inning, including his second strike out of Bryan Reynolds and his fourth total. The 7th inning would bring much of the same as Turnbull and new Pirates pitcher Nik Turley would only permit one runner between them. The 7th turned out to be the final inning for Turnbull and his final line was solid as he allowed only 1 run on 5 hits, while walking 2 and striking out 4.
In the top of the 8th the Tigers would put another run on the board after a hit batsman and a wild pitch by Rich Rod as Miguel Cabrera singled the runner home from second. Unfortunately for the Pirates and their fans that is all Detroit would need to complete the sweep of Pittsburgh by a final score of 2-1.
As of right now now the Pirates are not scheduled to play until Tuesday in St. Louis, but more than likely Thursday in Cincinnati due to the current COVID-19 outbreak in the Cardinals clubhouse. This is obviously not good for Major League Baseball in general, but it should be good for the ailing Buccos.