If the narrative from this game seems familiar, that’s because it effectively happened a few short days ago in the “getaway” game in Arizona. In this rendition, the Pirates took leads of 7-0 in the 4th and 8-5 in the 7th and couldn’t seal the deal either time. Luckily, Jordy Mercer came through with a huge two-out double in the 12th to win it. Kyle Lobstein pitched three effective innings again to get the win.
Niese pitched well enough but did give up 10 hits (including 2 HR) over five innings. This was another start from him in which he pitched okay and the offense scored a lot to bail him out. Despite the runs, I’m not particularly concerned about Niese’s pitching, he’ll be a decent enough guy to put out there every five days.
The bullpen is a different story. Neftali Feliz and Tony Watson gave up three runs, all one home runs, in the 7th and 8th to let the Rockies tie it up. To be frank, this is the opposite of what you want to see from your bullpen with a big lead. The “shutdown, deep bullpen model” that the Royals showed to be awesome the last two years was supposed to apply to the Pirates this year, but in the early going, it seems like that’s a tough sell. The bullpen isn’t just blowing small leads, either; 3+ runs with three innings to go should nearly always be enough to win the game. Melancon even looked shaky, needing a strikeout of Trevor Story with two runners in scoring position to end the game.
I think a more in-depth analysis of how the Pirates work pitch counts up for the starter and then how they respond after that, especially once they reach the bullpen, is in order, because this seems to be happening a little too often. However, blaming the offense for not having a big enough lead seems crazy, so maybe the bullpen is what needs to be seriously reevaluated here. Maybe they could make a trade for Jeanmar Gomez?
The Thursday afternoon contest between the Pirates (Nicasio) and Rockies (Chatwood) begins at 3:10pm EDT today. The Pirates have already guaranteed themselves a winning record on the long road trip, but getting greedy is going to be important this year. A win heading into the 15 game stretch against the NL Central (including 9 against the Cubs/Cards) would be great. Go Bucs.