After being the victims of a sweep by one of the worst teams in the league last year there are obviously going to be more negatives than positives. However, for the purpose of this exercise that I complete after each series there will always be five observations in each category. Clearly some of them will hold more weight than others and at times I will struggle to fill up one side, while trying to cram my thoughts into the other. In the end I attempt to find a nice balance, which seems to be getting harder and harder as the Pirates season progresses.
1) Chad Kuhl could be back to pre-surgery form and possibly even better. Other than the 2nd inning solo homer given up to C.J. Cron, Kuhl had all of his stuff going on Friday night. In 4 innings he struck out 7 and didn’t allow a single free pass on 58 total pitches. His fastball was sitting around 97 with good movement, as well as command and his 83 mph curveball had batters guessing at every turn.
2) Erik Gonzalez has been a hitting machine. Gonzalez absolutely exploded to start of the series; going 4 for 5 with 6 RBIs, including a blast off of Matthew Boyd in the 4th. On Sunday he recorded 2 additional hits and accounted for the Pirates only run as he singled to center off of the 2nd baseman’s glove, which brought Colin Moran in from 3rd.
3) Kevin Newman’s bat has continued to come alive. For the series he was 6 for 15, bringing his average up from .189 to .250 and extending his hitting streak to 4 games.
4) Stratton and Hartlieb execute well in an otherwise disappointing bullpen. On Sunday these Pirates relievers combined for 8 strikeouts (6 by Stratton) in 4 innings pitched and did not allow a single free pass. Stratton did give up an earned run, which was his first since July 28th against the Brewers. Hartlieb’s only blemish on the season came against Minnesota on August 5. Aside from that he has not allowed a run in 6 other appearances this season.
5) Nick Mears gets an unexpected first MLB appearance. It may not have happened the way Mears had originally imagined it, but on Saturday the young right handed reliever got the call up from the satellite site in Altoona to replace the struggling Miguel Del Pozo on the roster. In an inning of work he did allow an earned run and struggled with control at times, walking 3 batters. However, he did strike out two and worked his way out of jam. Before you are too quick to judge this young man, please keep in mind that he has not pitched a game above AA in his professional career.
1) Overall the bullpen has continued to struggle. After Kuhl exited the game on Friday night, the bullpen proceeded to give up another 16 runs, on Saturday the allowed another 5 and even with the success in general on Sunday afternoon, it was an extreme wild pitch and a run given up by RichRod that led to the Pirates loss.
2) Phillip Evan out for season after collision with Gregory Polanco. This poor guy has been one of the Pirates best hitters on the season, from pretty much out of nowhere and now his season is over after suffering a concussion and broke jaw at the hands of Gregory Polanco’s elbow; to no real fault of either player.
3) Derek Holland gives up 5 homers (4 in the 1st inning). Holland gave up homers to 4 of the first 5 batters he faced, with a single sandwiched in between, and just like that it was 5-0 Tigers. The veteran lefty ended up throwing 112 pitches on the night, giving up a 5th home run in the 5th inning before exiting the game.
4) After getting off to a hot start Colin Moran has chilled. After hitting 5 home runs in his first 8 games of the season, Moran has only collected 3 additional hits over his last 7. His average on the season has plummeted from .321 to .226 over this stretch.
5) The Pirates are now 3-13. There is no nice way of putting it. The Pirates season thus far has been a disaster. With all of the injuries, struggles by their most reliable players and total collapses by the bullpen the shortened 2020 has felt particularly long already.
Today the Pirates were scheduled to travel to St. Louis to take on the Cardinals. However, due to a COVID outbreak in Cards clubhouse, the entire series has been postponed. For now Pittsburgh will get to rest up and Pirates Fans will get a break from the frustration as their next game will not be until Thursday in Cincinnati at 5:10 PM. Currently Anthony DeSclafani (1-0, 0.00 ERA) is set to take the mound for the Reds against a Pirates Pitcher that has yet to be determined.