PITTSBURGH – Rob Scahill gave up two runs in the seventh and Tony Watson surrendered three in the eighth, including a two-run blast to third baseman Nick Castellanos, who drove in four runs on the day. This was a bad series for the Pirates relievers, who didn’t really provide much relief at all. Pittsburgh’s bullpen allowed 15 runs in 12 innings pitched during the team’s three-game losing streak.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle stood by his bullpen, but acknowledged that the team has recently had trouble stopping teams on the backside of games.
“These guys are human beings and they’re not going to have a zero ERA at the end of the season,” Hurdle said. “[Watson’s] been our best guy in multiple situations and he’ll continue to be our best guy.”
The bullpen’s ineffectiveness was especially unsettling considering the quality start the team received from starter Gerrit Cole. The Pirates ace cruised through the first three innings before his botched pickoff attempt allowed Tigers left fielder Justin Upton to advance from first to third. Cole struck out the dangerous Miguel Cabrera immediately following the blunder, but walked J.D. Martinez and gave up a two-run double to Castellanos.
That was all that Cole would allow in six innings of work. Pittsburgh’s star righty struck out five batters, walked one, and, with the exception of when a line drive hit by opposing pitcher Jordan Zimmermann grazed the top of Cole’s head, looked much more comfortable on the mound than he did in his start against the Cincinnati Reds last Saturday.
“I was much sharper today, my stuff was much more defined,” Cole said. “We were able to work efficiently and we were able to get strikeouts when we needed to. It’s just a good feeling to come away knowing that you’ve improved from the last start.”
But just as Cole, whose record fell to 0-2 with the loss, was unable to get relief from his bullpen late in the game, he was unable to get any support from his offense against Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann, despite the Pirates starter chipping in with a leadoff single in the fifth inning.
Nine Pirates reached base during Zimmermann’s six innings of work, but none of them scored. The Tigers right-hander worked out of two separate bases-loaded jams, one in the first inning and one in the fifth. Zimmermann struck out four and walked two in his six scoreless innings and improved his record to 2-0 on the year.
After struggling to get hits with men on base, the Pirates collected three runs on five hits in the bottom of the seventh inning. John Jaso led off with a double and scored on Starling Marte’s infield single. Marte himself then scored on an infield single by Josh Harrison. Jordy Mercer added a third run when he drove Gregory Polanco in with a single to left.
That was all that the Pirates on Thursday afternoon. The Bucs collected 14 hits but stranded 12 baserunners and were unable to match the offensive output of the Tigers, who scored seven runs on nine hits.
John Jaso went 3-for-5, scored a run, and was gunned down at home while trying to score on an Andrew McCutchen double. The Pirates first baseman said that, while the team is anxious to acquire these big hits, if they remain focused on getting hits, the runs will eventually come.
“You don’t worry about it too much,” Jaso said. “You just trust that it’s going to happen.”
The Pirates welcome the Milwaukee Brewers to PNC Park for a three-game series. Pirates lefty Jeff Locke (0-0, 1.50 ERA) will take on Brewers righty Jimmy Nelson (1-1, 2.70 ERA) on Friday night at 7:05 PM.