Very quietly for some time now, the bullpen has been, dare I say, good. How good? Well since Miguel Del Pozo through his last Pitch for the Pirates on August 8th, they are 7th in all MLB with a 3.81 ERA. I mean they’ve certainly gotten a hell of a lot of practice, but I’ll admit, I didn’t really realize what was happening until this weekend.
They’ve found some arms they wouldn’t have seen, and seen even more do things they never intended to see them do. Sam Howard, Geoff Hartlieb, Chris Stratton, and Nik Turley, who all happened to factor into today’s contest are arguably the four best examples. That’s almost a month of work there we’re talking about and Neverauskas is still in the mix so imagine the numbers if he was cut out of the figure.
When Chad Kuhl took the mound today the last thing I wanted to do was write a bullpen story, I expect big things from Kuhl. Today he was less than stellar, as he struggled with command from the first pitch. He only lasted 3 innings on 68 pitches and had walked four. Still his stuff is good enough that he can work around shaky control at times, so when he was pulled that early when he has clearly been built up raised some eyebrows.
Nothing was announced on this or anything, but for those of us who pay pretty close attention to stuff like this, decisions outside the norm tend to get your notice.
Offensively the Pirates were kept in check most of the game, scoring in the third via some two out magic from Frazier and Reynolds.
Fast forward to the bottom of the 8th and the Bucs got another shot at Lorenzen. Erik Gonzalez got the party started with a single, Frazier grounded into a FC and Reynolds walked to set the stage for Moran to potentially see some pitches for once. See he had spent the entire game being worked around having Polanco behind him it makes total sense to be careful with Colin. The Reds called on Raisel Iglesias to face the closest thing the Pirates have to a slugger. Hard to feel anything other than the ballgame hinged right here.
Moran came in .667 against him 4 for 6 but Iglesias got the strikeout on only 3 pitches. Polanco represented the last chance in the 8th and he flew out to center. Polanco had a sloppy approach all day, getting away from the 3 game stretch of success he had recently.
In the ninth the Bucs went to their 3rd or 4th choice to close games, Richard Rodriguez who completed a very nice day for the Pirates bullpen, tossing 6 shutout innings and keeping this game close for the unit really failing this club, the offense.
If I told you the bullpen was going to perform like that for a month at any point in this bastardized season before it started, you’d bet this team was outperforming their price tag. Problem is, everything good and exciting about this club in 2019 is failing them in 2020. Bryan Reynolds is looking better, and taking better swings, Colin Moran has been at least someone who looked threatening most of the campaign. Erik Gonzalez has been a revelation, he’s gone from a player people were angry received a tender to one you can’t allow to walk. Credit where due, Neal might have been right on this one.
Back to the bottom of the ninth where Iglesias was trying to complete a 5-out save. Josh Bell singled, Hayes singled, and the Reds got Archie Bradley up in the pen. Tucker would face Iglesias and he singled driving Bell home to tie the game, on the throw Tucker and Hayes would advance to 2nd and 3rd with nobody out. Who comes to the plate to pinch hit, that’s right, Mr. Walk off, Kevin Newman, needing only a fly ball to win it. He would ground out to the pitcher but Hayes stayed in the rundown long enough to only lose an out, not position. 1 out.
Then Erik Gonzalez drove in the run on a walk off Sac Fly to win the game 3-2.
The offense will capture your memory in this one because of the late game heroics, but the bullpen put them in position to do it, and they have been doing exactly that for a little while now.
News & Notes:
- Colin Moran may never see a pitch again the rest of the season. If they keep batting Polanco behind him there is no reason to tempt fate. He finished the day with one official at bat.
- Erik Gonzalez is arguably the best hitter on this club in 2020. I know, me too. Stayed hot and collected another couple hits today.
- Adam Frazier has himself a 10 game hit streak and added a couple today to his total.
- Pirates were 1 for 7 today with runners in scoring position. Yesterday 1 for 9.