Hader Implodes, So Does Richard Rodriguez; Pirates Lose a Heartbreaker 7-6 to Brewers

JT Brubaker has had a long road to the Major Leagues. Drafted by the Pirates in the 6th round back in 2015, He moved through the system quickly and was on track to be the next starter the Pirates called on, but the 26 year old suffered right forearm tightness and missed nearly all of 2019.

The excitement about Brubaker was quickly eclipsed by excitement about Keller, and entering 2020 he wasn’t really given a shot to make the rotation this Spring. Well as tends to happen, especially to the Pirates recently, injury would test the depth.

Eventually enough were on the shelf that Brubaker was given a shot to start in a piggyback role with the winner of the nightcap against the Cards, Cody Ponce. Double headers the rest of the way should give him a chance to stick and continue to put his name in the hat for 2021.

Tonight would be a culmination of everything he worked for as he took the hill against the Brewers in Milwaukee.

The Pirates jumped out to a one run lead in the first getting two singles from Gonzalez and Tucker, then Newman grounded to third, but Gonzalez intentionally got himself in a run down and Tucker and Newman moved to 2nd and 3rd. A nice example of fundamental base running and worthy of note. To continue the theme Bell followed with a nice deep fly ball for the early 1-0 tally.

Brubaker surrendered a long home run to Christian Yelich but regrouped to escape with the game tied. In the second, he really ran into some trouble. Loading the bases with 1 out, then he got a ground ball to second and Frazier opted to get the out at home instead of trying for the double play, it would have been close.

Brubaker would take the next batter to 8 pitches before surrendering the lead with a walk, and worse, bringing Yelich to the plate with the bases loaded. Yelich too would take the count 3-2 and the game really sat here. Let’s face it, Brubaker’s entire night rested here, lose Yelich and Sam Howard was warm. Foul ball on an aggressive slider left up in the zone. Foul tip off a fastball out on the outer third. Another fastball away and Yelich lined out to Reynolds.

Baseball is a funny game, sometimes you can sense that early on the significance of a situation. The lead was surrendered but he kept his team, and himself in the game, big stuff from the young man.

Jacob Stallings came through with a two out double to tie the game in the 3rd and Brubaker would settle down. In the top of the fifth, Erik Gonzalez led off with a triple and was driven in by a Newman sac fly. Then Bell went Boom. He’s finding it a bit lately making some pretty solid contact as of late and tonight that was good for a 4-2 lead.

Brubaker cruised through the fifth, striking out the side and leaving in line for his first big league win. Unfortunately the bullpen couldn’t finish the story of JT’s first win in the majors.

In the seventh inning Chris Stratton would surrender one of those insurance runs on an Orlando Arcia home run.

Nik Turley would surrender two more and the lead in the 8th to make it 5-4 Brewers.

Game flipped, right there.

Josh Hader came in for the Brewers and walked Gonzalez, struck out Tucker, the wildness continued though as he would walk Newman too bringing up Josh Bell with two on and the tying run at second. After a visit to the mound that surely sounded like, um you ok dude?, Bell stepped up to try to deliver. On a 1-1 count Hader uncorked a wild pitch moving both runners up 90 feet. Now Bell just needed another fly ball, and he drew Hader’s third walk bringing up Jacob Stallings who is not just the Pirates hottest hitter, but the National League’s, with the bases loaded.

Unbelievably, he walked him. Tie game.

They left him in to face Frazier, 1-0, 2-0, 3-0, sensing a pattern? You guessed it, Walk. Bucs lead 6-5. One of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. He faced 6 batters, walked five and only threw 9 strikes in doing so.

Of course he was pulled, but meanwhile the bases are still juiced with one out. And just in case you thought baseball was fair, Nik Turley now was in line to get his first win.

Regardless, Reynolds to face Williams, and he grounded out to first as they got the out at home. The Pirates called on Gregory Polanco to pinch hit, hit-less in his last 17 but almost guaranteed to see a pitch. Polanco drove one to right but a nice sliding catch kept it a one run game.

Richard Rodriguez on to collect another save in the bottom of the ninth. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so Rich Rod walked the first batter as a nod to Hader I assume. Then promptly gave up a game winning walk off homerun to Eric Sogard.

And just like that, the winner didn’t even wear a Pirates Jersey. Devin Williams picked up the win for the Brewers.

Heartbreaker.

News & Notes:

  • Cole Tucker is quietly really starting to hit. Time to maybe chill on all the ‘if only he could hit’ takes that I’ve certainly been guilty of.
  • Sam Howard continues to be a reliable arm out of the Pen
  • Jacob Stallings is on fire right now, putting the wood to anything over the plate and if he sees a lefty who isn’t the starter the opposing manager should be fired.
  • Gonzalez and Tucker at least tonight really looked like a good one-two. Complimentary to each other and if either get on you don’t suffer in the run game.
  • I know it’s due to injury but Newman in the 3 hole is weird, and even if he hits I’m not sure its the right kind of hitting.
  • Josh Hader did not look sharp tonight, hadn’t pitches since Tuesday. He hadn’t given up a hit all season.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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