Josh Bell has looked like anything but the Pirates best player this season for the most part. In fact not two weeks ago he was twitching like cat in a room full of rocking chairs in the box. Suddenly since the road trip began, he is quiet in the box and putting nice swings on the ball. When Spring started nobody thought this was a contender, but everyone thought Bell and Reynolds would keep them relevant a bit longer into the season.
Today’s game is an example of how important one of those players can be, and a reminder of what this streaky player in particular can deliver when he lets his talent speak louder than his mind. In the top of the fourth inning Kevin Newman sharply singled to center, and Josh Bell delivered an absolute bullet to right center, leaving a souvenir in the hood of a brand new Toyota in the process. At the time it gave the Pirates a 3-1 lead, one inning after an error led to the Brewers tying the game at one.
There are times when you lose a game you feel you played well enough to win and then there are games like today where the Pirates commit two errors (that were charged) and bungle running the bases but come out on top.
The offense was pesky all day and the pitching was persistent. This felt like a bullpen game, which might have been the intent. Steven Brault went 3 innings on 68 pitches giving up one unearned run. Then Kyle Crick came in for his first appearance after being activated. He threw a scoreless frame, his breaking stuff was on point but his velocity sat around 91 MPH, ultimately he won’t be effective sitting there, but he looked more controlled which might signify a coached throttle back on his stuff.
Nick Tropeano came on in the 5th for his second appearance, remember last time out he tossed four scoreless in relief, well today he put in another good performance going 2.2 innings while the offense continued to add on. And they were lucky to do it as Frazier decided to head to third with two outs and Gonzalez barely beat the tag to score before Frazier was out. Too close.
That lead felt nice when Hartlieb came in to relieve Tropeano he plunked the batter on his first pitch. Then he struck out Smoak on a foul tip, that somehow the umpire CB Buckner didn’t hear and they refused to review it. Next pitch Hartlieb struck him out again. Shelton was hot, like we haven’t seen this season yet.
The Bucs stuck with Hartlieb to begin the 8th and he delivered another clean inning. Another nice outing for Hartlieb who’s flown under the radar, but all he’s done is put together 13 innings of work with a 2.77 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP.
In the bottom of the ninth the Pirates sent Richard Rodriguez out to defend a four run lead. After last night I’m sure many have some questions. The simple answer is if you trust a guy you toss him right back out there. The nuanced answer is probably more like why do you trust a guy with a 4.97 ERA to close games out. Regardless, this was the choice. This time Rich Rod would get the job done and relatively painlessly if not frighteningly close to going very badly.
Bucs Win! 5-1
News & Notes:
- JT Riddle I hope has played his last game at third. If the Pirates intend to leave Hayes in AAA, they’ll get called on the carpet nightly if Riddle is who plays instead. Charged with two errors today and probably could have had a third. Started a slow double play with a sloppy feed and booted a swinging bunt. No reasoning is good enough, and this is true Hayes or no Hayes. If they must play him, put him somewhere he’s better, third isn’t for him.
- Frazier is starting to feel it a bit, actively seeking to hit the ball the other way.
- Erik Gonzalez had zero walks on the season before this road trip. Derek Shelton put him in the leadoff spot and Erik has drawn 4 walks while continuing to hit. Say what you want, but if you feel the same way you did about Erik before the season you were either a hopeless optimist or haven’t been watching. He might be a real player.
- Gregory Polanco homered in the top of the second, that’s his fifth. In a normal season he is on pace for 27 homeruns. If he improves nothing else, is that good enough? I asked this on Twitter and it seemed most felt no, but this is not far from what Joey Gallo does and I see people call him a star. Think about it and let me know what you think.
- Steven Brault was rather abruptly pulled after 3 innings today, and his pitch count was near 70. Worth noting because of the deadline approaching.
- Nick Tropeano has now thrown 6.2 innings for the Pirates, with a 0.00 ERA on 83 pitches. Very small sample size, but also really nice work, he almost has the look of a knuckle baller.
- In 13 innings Hartlieb has a 2.77 ERA and a 1.53 WHIP. He’s become one of the better options in this bullpen.