Sometimes, you’re just not going to win a baseball game. After scoring 19 runs in their last two contests, the Pirates only managed to scrape across a single run on a solo homer from SS Sean Rodriguez (and man is he raking lately, what’s the deal with that?). The bullpen kept it close for the majority of the game after Nicasio came out after five innings, but A.J. Schugel gave up five earned runs in the eighth, which pretty much put the game out of hand. Schugel has looked really good this season up to that point, but this inning sunk the ship for the Pirates. He didn’t get much help from his defense, either, with David Freese making an error on what possibly could have been an inning-ending double play.
Nicasio didn’t pitch super well, but I wouldn’t say he pitched poorly, either. He threw a decent number of pitches for strikes (64%), but also had to throw 101 pitches in 5 innings. Efficiency has plagued him, as he walked four batters and also allowed 12 of the 22 batters he faced to see at least five pitches in their plate appearances:
Furthermore, his velocity is already down from the start of the season, which is something I worried about early on in his conversion from reliever back to a starter:
Not only is his average fastball velocity steadily decreasing from game to game, his maximum fastball velocity (error bars represent max/min for each pitch type) has decreased a lot as well. I don’t necessarily think that Nicasio shouldn’t get a few more chances in the rotation, but it seems like he might be falling back into the issues he had prior to the Rockies converting him from starter to reliever. Hopefully he can just churn out a few good-enough starts over the next month until someone can get called up from AAA, because taking both Nicasio and Locke out of the rotation isn't an option, and Locke looks like he'll be the first to go at this point. This means Nicasio needs to settle in and collect as many innings as possible for the Pirates.
Pirates wrap up their series with the Diamondbacks today at 4:10pm EDT (1:10pm PDT) with Liriano on the hill, who looks to overcome a shaky start last time out and secure a series win for the Pirates.