The Pirates’ pitchers managed to struggle through a lot of control issues to hold the Indians to two runs, but it did no good. Their hitters chased and chased and chased against Shane Bieber and the Cleveland bullpen, and never really threatened to score. The 2-0 loss dropped them to 4-17.
Trevor Williams muddled through four innings by not giving up any big hits. His inability to put hitters away, though, led to a spiraling pitch count, 91 in all. Still, he survived six hits, all singles, and two walks, while giving up just one run. That came on three singles in the second, the last with two out by backup catcher Beau Taylor, who’s batting .056 yet somehow isn’t a Pirate.
Ben & Derry’s hitters, of course, did what they do. Their best shot in the early innings came in the third, when Erik Gonzalez (batting leadoff to take advantage of his chronically low OBP) and Kevin Newman singled. That threat ended in Pirate-y fashion when Gonzalez got thrown out stealing and Josh Bell fanned on a pitch in the dirt. At the start of the next inning, Colin Moran excused himself from further participation in the clown show by getting tossed after striking out.
The Pirates got only one more runner as far as second, and none to third. In the sixth, Newman and Bell led off with singles, but the next two batters whiffed and J.T. Riddle flied out.
Bieber left after six innings, having allowed six singles, walked nobody and fanned 11. The Pirates did no better against the Indians’ bullpen. They got only two more baserunners, neither past first, and whiffed five more times. For the game, Riddle and Jarrod Dyson combined to go 1-for-6, which raised their combined average from .132 to .136.
On the pitching side, once Williams was out, Sam Howard led the daily parade of reliever tryouts. He didn’t throw a ton of strikes, but still slidered his way to a 1-2-3 inning. Brandon Waddell followed and really had trouble with the strike zone, throwing just 12 in 30 pitches. Somehow, though, he got by with just two walks, no hits and no runs over two innings.
The eighth brought on Chris Stratton and, of all things, he couldn’t throw strikes. No, really. A single and two walks to his first three batters loaded the bases. Then Bell made a bad throw, pulling Jacob Stallings off the plate on a force attempt. A Pirates’ challenge failed as usual and it was 2-0. Fortunately, the Indians suddenly started chasing pitches off the plate and Stratton escaped without any more damage.
Thankfully, Nik Turley had a ten-pitch ninth. For the Pirates’ staff, it was a pretty good performance on the whole. Yet, despite giving up just two runs, it took them 180 pitches to get through nine innings.
The offense continues to be so bad it’s like video game stats in reverse. Newman’s walk in the eighth was the Pirates’ first in 22 innings. In the last two games, the Indians drew 14 walks and the Pirates one. The Pirates’ hitters have had games of 15 and 16 strikeouts in the series. On the season, the Pirates have issued roughly twice as many walks as they’ve drawn. Given the team’s severe inability to command the strike zone at the plate or on the mound, it’s awfully hard to attribute their struggles so far to anything other than being challenged at baseball.