I was going to write a roundup of the past couple games for the Pirates since I was out of town and not blogging, but it seems kind of pointless now, so I won’t. They have not been playing their best baseball in the past few games, but it’s really early in the season and there’s no need to panic.
After a stellar start to the season and some late game heroics from Starling Marte on Friday, the Pirates have lost four of their last five games, most recently in 7-3 fashion to the Tigers. Over the weekend, the Pirates managed only two runs in their second and third games against the Reds, despite tallying 19 hits over those two games and leaving a hell of a lot of guys on base. That’s some poorly timed hitting but if you just keep plugging, eventually the hits will come at the right times and all those base runners will translate into runs. The script has been flipped in their last two games (with a 17-hit, 7-4 win in between), with the Pirates struggling to get guys on base and giving up a decent number of runs. One of those issues came as a result of the starter when Nicasio imploded and was generally terrible yesterday, and one was the result of the relievers today combining to not pitch terribly well. Teams lose baseball games, though, and this is not a huge deal, especially against the high-powered Tigers offense.
There are a few positives here, though. The offense is leaving a lot of guys on base, but the flip side of that is that they’re getting guys on base. For a team lacking in home run power, getting guys on base is the first step to scoring, so the fact that it’s been happening with relative frequency is a good thing. Cluster luck works in both directions; teams sometimes have a stretch (or an entire season, if you’re the Cardinals) in which they drive in a ridiculous percentage of guys in scoring position. At other times, you don’t drive in enough, but it’s been only a few games so far this season and this is likely to even itself out. If the Pirates can continue getting on base at the clip they’ve established, the offense will be just fine for the season.
Another positive today was Vogelsong’s performance as a fill-in for an injured Francisco Liriano. (I watched the Tigers broadcast on MLB.tv today and there was a ludicrous moment in which Tigers’ analyst Rod Allen was saying something to the effect of “I bet that Clint Hurdle sat Liriano against the Tigers because he hasn’t done well against them in the past,” which is hilarious and misguided. He tried to back it up by saying that teams look at the “numbers” so much and this is how they make decisions, but it was pretty funny because he clearly has no idea how statistics work. He also claimed at another point that Jaso was a “dead-pull hitter,” so the dude wasn’t really on top of his game today.) Humorous denunciation aside, Vogelsong came out and did his job and gave the Pirates a good chance to win in his first start for the Pirates in a long, long time. This could be a big boon to the rotation is he can be effective; between Lirianos’ injury, which seems unlikely to be serious but could still be an issue, and Nicasio’s rough outing, starting rotation depth would be nice to have now. In that same vein, Jameson Taillon had a strong six innings at AAA and will probably be ready to help the Pirates at some point in 2016 if need be.
After putting a few guys on base in the first, though, the Buccos couldn’t do much offensively against Shane Greene and Caminero effectively torpedoed any chances of them winning when he gave up a grand slam to Saltalamacchia in the sixth. The early bullpen strategy seemed like a good one at first, since Vogelsong was starting to get hit a little hard, but turned out to not be so good. So it goes.
Luckily the Pens won their playoff game tonight, because I’m not sure the yinzer Twittersphere could take two losses in the same day. The Pirates are back at it tomorrow with a very early 12:35pm EDT start to wrap up their second two game series against the Tigers. Gerrit Cole will be on the mound, which should give the Pirates a chance for another split and a little momentum heading into the weekend series against the Brewers.