I’m back after a little bit of a hiatus thanks to Pittsburgh’s series with Cincinnati getting cut short by a positive COVID-19 from a Red’s player. Not sure it was worth recapping two polar opposite games, but in hindsight it probably would have been better than looking back on the Pirates most recent series against the Tribe. After losing the first game in extras, the Bucco bats fell silent; which makes it hard to think about any positive takeaways and forces me to resist going full on Yinzer. Almost every time I come up with something good that happened, it is almost instinctively followed up with a yeah but; another impulse that I try my best to resist. Once again, as always, I will list 5 positive and 5 negative takeaways, with the pessimistic views starting to hold more and more weight as the season progresses.
1) Kevin Newman is currently riding a 9 game hitting streak. I know he doesn’t hit the ball very hard as I pointed out in my article on him a couple of days ago, but he does get hits and gets on base, which is more than I can say for a lot of the Pirates hitters right now. During his hitting streak Newman has raised his average from .167 to .292 and his OPS from .461 to a nearly respectable .704.
2) Jacob Stallings has quietly put together a streak of his own. Stallings has at least one hit in 8 of his last 10 games. This has skyrocketed his average from .118 to .289, good for third best on the team. Sure only one of hits during this time has been for extra bases, but once again beggars can’t be choosers.
3) Steven Brault has remained solid. After a disastrous outing against the Tigers back on August 7th, Brault has not allowed a run in his last two outings; allowing only 2 hits and striking out 4 over 7 innings of work.
4) Geoff Hartlieb and Brandon Waddell continue to be two of the most reliable pitchers out of the Pirates Bullpen. Hartlieb has only allowed 1 earned run in his last 4 appearances, while striking out 7 in 4 innings. Waddell pitches two scoreless innings on Thursday night to keep the Pirates in the game. He struck out 2 in his first outing of the year against the Reds last Wednesday.
5) Nick Mears took advantage of his second call up to the bigs with a nice showing in the second game of the series. The young right hander came into the game on Wednesday in a tough spot, with runners on 1st and 2nd in the top of the 8th and 3 runs already in. He promptly struck out Delino DeShields to avoid any more damage. Mears then struck out another in the 9th and induced a double play to allow the Pirates the chance for a comeback in the bottom half of the inning.
1) The Pirates struck out a total of 37 times in the 3 game series with the Indians. I know the Pirates had to face two of MLB’s current best in Carraso, Civale and especially Bieber during this series, but they sure didn’t do themselves any favors; looking absolutely out of sorts at the plate by swinging at pitches outside the zone and leaving the bat on their shoulders for the ones that hit their marks.
2) Base running blunders and unforced errors are becoming commonplace. Erik Gonzalez caught off second in one instance and making a terrible attempt to steal third in another. Josh Bell missing his target at home and Jacob Stallings failing to adjust. These are only 3 instances in a long line mishaps that have plagued the Pirates all season long.
3) Gregory Polanco. It’s pretty sad when your biggest highlight of the year is some jabroni jumping in the river to recover one of your foul balls. On the season Polanco is hitting a dismal .070 in 43 at bats, tallying 22 strikes and only 3 extra base hits.
4) Dovydas Neverauskas has allowed 8 earned runs in his last 3 appearances. After not allowing a single run in his first 5.1 innings of work, Neverauskas has completely imploded; capped off by his performance on Wednesday night when he came into a scoreless contest in the top of the 6th. He proceeded to give up 3 runs on a walk and two hits, including a home run to Carlos Santana with 2 on and 2 out.
5) The Pirates are currently an MLB a league worst 4-17, good for a .190 Winning Percentage. There is no way to sugar coat it. I don’t care about the shortened season, all the injuries and a first year coaching staff. This is just miserable, plain and simple.
Obviously there were more negatives that I could have pointed out as I struggled to narrow it down to only 5. Just as I struggled to find 5 positives in a sea of ineptitude. Hopefully, things will start to get better, but I would be lying if I said I was optimistic about the remaining 39 games for the Pirates.