A pitcher’s duel. That’s what Joe Block referred to this game as when we pulled into the bottom of the second. I mean, through five it turned out to be true. Steven Brault threw 33 pitches in the first inning and found himself to put up five scoreless frames. The Indians countered with Aaron Civale, the backward movement on his fastball looked like a screwball and the Pirates were stymied like they’d never seen such a thing. He would cruise through 8.1 innings of shutout ball before finally relinquishing a run in the 9th.
Dovydas Neverauskas took over in the sixth for Steven Brault and gave up a three run shot, fair this time, to Carlos Santana giving the tribe a 3-0 lead.
The real story of this game and most of the season was the continued struggles of the Pirates counted upon bats. Lets have a roll call, Reynolds .185, Bell .205, Polanco .075, and Frazier .185. Civale is no joke, but these batting averages are. Trading players, keeping players, rebuilding, doesn’t matter what you call it, not a single positive thing can come from all four of these players being awful at the same time.
We’re hearing about Polanco’s exit velocity and when he hits the ball it’s true, he is hitting it hard. Think about this though, half of the swings Gregory has taken this year caught nothing but air.
Maybe it’s bad luck for these guys. Well lets see, how about we do another role call but this time we’ll look at xBA (Expected Batting Average) I like this stat because it takes a whole bunch of data and boils it down to what they should produce. It really takes luck out of the equation. Reynolds .185 (.236 xBA), Bell .205 (.228 xBA), Polanco .075 (.163 xBA), and Frazier .185 (.277 xBA).
Ouch. The pitching has largely settled down, probably actually outperforming their paygrade a bit if I’m honest. None of it matters if these four guys continue to put this kind of work on tape. You can’t get around it, and you can’t afford to sit all of them.
Losing is going to happen a whole lot this season, but being shut down on offense entirely, well the Pirates could have two Nolan Ryan’s and 3 Randy Johnson’s and they’d lose just as much. I’m not trying to say the pitching is good, but I am saying it’s steadied itself enough to win some of these games by only putting up pedestrian offensive numbers.
Tyler Bashlor made his Pirates debut and gave up 3 more runs after walking the bases loaded and striking out a couple. Nick Mears returned to the mound and took care of the ninth.
Civale was impressive and utterly in control all night. 4 base runners all night and not a single one made it to second until Tucker led off the 9th with a double. Kevin Newman extended his hitting streak to 7 games with a ringing single. Josh Bell knocked in the only run on a sac fly. But Civale finishes a rare complete game as the Tribe wins 6-1.
Do yourself a favor and watch some out of market games when you can. I promise you every other team doesn’t have starting rotations full of all stars.