Well, the incomprehensible keeps getting more incomprehensible. Some good things happened in this game, but some really bad things did, too . . . not least of which was the continued, creeping feeling that Ben Cherington and Derek Shelton are mind-numbingly incompetent. Today’s installment of ineptitude was a 17-13, 11-inning loss to Detroit.
Erik Gonzalez, who seems to be hitting his way into the starting shortstop job, got the Pirates four early runs. They loaded the bases with one out in the second against Matt Boyd on a single and a pair of walks. Gonzalez grounded a ball past short into left to drive in two. In the fourth, following a Jacob Stallings double, Gonzalez drilled a breaking ball 463 feet into the seats in left for his first home run of the year. At the time, that gave the Bucs a 4-1 lead.
Chad Kuhl made his first start since June 26, 2018, and it went quite well. Kuhl went heavily with his breaking stuff, throwing fastballs only 38% of the time, by my count. In 2018, he threw them 59% of the time. He struck out the side in the first and totaled seven whiffs over four innings. He gave up some hard contact in the second, including a bomb by C.J. Cron that turned out to be the only baserunner he allowed. Kuhl needed just 58 pitches for the four innings. Yeah, it was the Tigers, but on the other hand Kuhl is just five innings past a layoff of over two years.
Part two of the piggyback didn’t go so well. Steve Brault came on for the fifth, following an impressive start his last time out. This time he reverted to “Honey, Who Shrunk the Strike Zone?” mode. Brault faced six batters and retired nobody, allowing three hits and three walks and throwing only 13 of 32 pitches for strikes. He left with the score tied, 4-4, nobody out and the bases loaded.
Geoff Hartlieb almost put out the fire completely, and did pretty well anyway. He fanned Jonathan Schoop and Miguel Cabrera, but walked Cron to force in a run. He got a ground out to end the inning, leaving Detroit up, 5-4.
Another guy who’s been hitting himself into more playing time, Phillip Evans, put the Pirates back up in the bottom of the fifth. With Kevin Newman and Bryan Reynolds on base via singles, Evans pulled another breaking ball just over the notch in left-center for the Pirates’ second three-run bomb in two days. That was the first longball of Evans’ career and made it 7-5, Pirates.
Not content with success, Derek Shelton brought in Yacksel Rios, who did his best Yacksel Rios impersonation. In the sixth, Rios gave up an RBI double to some guy named JaCoby Something.
In the seventh, Rios loaded the bases with nobody out. Fortunately, Shelton knew better than to bring in Miguel Del Pozo. After all, that’d be an incredibly stupid thing to do with the bases loaded, Del Pozo sporting a 57% walk rate, and a new rule requiring him to face at least three batters. Oh . . . wait . . . he did bring in Del Pozo. Three singles and a double later the Tigers had six runs and a 12-7 lead.
The Pirates kept battling their own GM, manager and bullpen. They loaded the bases in the eight with one out again to Gonzalez. He responded with a double, driving in two and giving him six RBIs on the game. Unfortunately, Cole Tucker and Newman both hit the ball hard but didn’t aim it well enough, so the inning ended with the score 12-9.
In the ninth, three runs down, Shelton went with Rich Rodriguez, who isn’t great but isn’t Rios or Del Pozo. The move just heightened the feeling that Shelton is either amazingly bad at his job or trying to lose. Rodriguez had an easy inning with two strikeouts.
The Pirates continued to battle in the ninth, as Reynolds singled with two outs, took second on defensive indifference, and scored on a single by Evans. That gave each of them three hits in the game, and also gave Evans four RBIs. Amazingly, Adam Frazier then went deep for the second time on the season, tying the game, 12-12.
In the tenth, Nik Turley had a chance to strand the free runner. After a line out and strikeout, though, he gave up an RBI single to Dawel Lugo. The Pirates then did something they’d failed to do in their first four tries and got their own free runner home. Gonzalez singled for his fourth hit, sending John Ryan Murphy to third. Cole Tucker brought him in with a sacrifice fly.
Dovydas Neverauskas finally blew the game up in the eleventh, giving up two singles, a walk and a double to make it 17-13. The Pirates failed to score in the bottom half. Ben and Derek’s Bucs are now 3-11.