Offense Shows Usual Life, Bullpen Walks Everybody, Pirates Lose

Nothing new here.  An encouraging start from Steve Brault, some “interesting” relief appearances, and no offense against Cleveland starter Aaron Civale, who threw a complete game.  Pirates lose, 6-1.

The Pirates did get Good Brault this time.  He didn’t exactly pound the strike zone; that’s probably never going to happen.  For instance, he needed 29 pitches in the first inning even though he allowed only one runner.  And he had some luck:  In the fifth, after two singles to lead off, Brault snagged a liner from Domingo Santana and turned it into a double play.  But those were the only two hits he allowed and he walked only one.  He left after five innings and 80 pitches, and no runs allowed.

The bullpen had a lot of issues with the strike zone, but missed some bats, too.  Unfortunately, Dovydas Neverauskas did his best Bad Brault impersonation in the sixth.  After a one-out double, he gave up a four-pitch walk.  He came back from a 3-1 count to get Francisco Lindor looking on a curve, but then went 3-1 again on Carlos Santana.  Santana came into the series struggling, but he’s getting well quickly.  He lined a blast to right to put the Indians up 3-0.

Geoff Hartlieb had a similar inning, only without the bad ending.:  two walks, two strikeouts and a groundout.  Neverauskas and Hartlieb are both pitching very differently this year.  They’ve both had their fastball velocity drop from about 96 to 94 mph, and thinks Hartlieb has switched from a four-seamer to a two-seamer.  Neverauskas is throwing a lot fewer fastballs and a lot more curves.  (He also throws a cutter.)  Hartlieb has replaced a lot of fastballs with sliders.  All three outs today came on sliders.  I think this regime has the right idea, but we’ll have to see whether they’ve got the right personnel.

Watching random, unproven relievers is pretty much the only entertainment this team offers.  The next installment was Tyler Bashlor in his Pirate debut.  Sure enough, he threw around 96 mph with a lot of sliders and, unusually for a reliever and especially a Pirate reliever, changeups.  He got a couple of strikeouts, but also loaded the bases on walks.  The other Santana, Domingo, unloaded them with a double.

After Bashlor hit Roberto Perez, Nick Mears ended the inning on a three-pitch strikeout, all curves.  Mears stayed on for the ninth, throwing 96-97.  He started ominously with a walk, but fanned Jose Ramirez and got Lindor to hit into a double play.  So the bullpen managed to walk only seven in four innings.

Oh, yeah, the Pirates had some turns at bat, too.  Ben & Derek’s lineup bothered to trudge up to the plate because there’s some rule or other that requires it.  You can recapture the excitement of their efforts by staring at a deflated beach ball for an hour.  Shelton bolstered the lineup by starting J.T. Riddle in center, because it was there.  Riddle contributed an 0-for-3 to drop below the Dyson Line.  Eight innings produced three singles, two by Jacob Stallings, and no walks.

In the ninth, the Bucs staged their traditional fake rally.  Cole Tucker, who wasn’t in the lineup just because, led off with a pinch-hit double.  A single by Kevin Newman and a sacrifice fly by Josh Bell produced the Pirates’ run for the day.  The middle of the order — Bell, Colin Moran, Bryan Reynolds and Gregory Polanco — went a combined 0-for-13.

The Pirates are now 4-16.