Keller Walks the Earth, Still Throws Five No-Hit Innings, But Stratton Blows It

The Pirates have been getting closer and closer to blowing their lead in the Rockerstakes, but Derek Shelton took matters into his own hands.  The Bucs got five extremely wild but hitless innings from Mitch Keller and took a 3-1 lead into the ninth.  Shelton, however, kept Chris Stratton on for a second inning in the ninth rather than use Richard Rodriguez.  Not only did he start the inning with Stratton, he left Stratton in to give up three runs, resulting in a 4-3 walkoff loss.

Keller had one of the stranger starts . . . like . . . ever.  He began by walking the first three batters in the bottom of the first on 15 pitches.  So you’d think Carlos Santana, one of the most patient hitters in MLB, would take a pitch or four.  Instead, he swung at the first pitch and hit into a 4-6-3 double play, which brought in a run.  Then Franmil Reyes also swung at the first pitch and grounded out.  So not only did Keller escape with only one run allowed, he threw only 17 pitches in an inning in which he walked three.

The game continued in the same manner.  Keller walked eight in all, but the Indians kept bailing him out.  He walked the bases loaded again with two outs in the third, but Tyler Naquin lined out on the first pitch.  In the fifth, Francisco Lindor led off with his third walk, but Cesar Hernandez swung at a 1-0 pitch and hit into a 3-6 double play.

Keller left after five, having thrown exactly half of his 98 pitches for strikes.  He gave up no hits and fanned three.  He got some help.  Gregory Polanco made a fine running catch in the right field corner in the second.  In the fifth, Colin Moran made a diving stop on a hard grounder down the right field line.  Keller hasn’t allowed a hit in his last 11 innings.

The Pirates, meanwhile, were flailing away at Carlos Carrasco.  They had only one runner, on a walk, in the first three innings.  In the fourth, though, Josh Bell singled with two out and Polanco lined a low pitch to right for his seventh home run of the year.

In the sixth, the Bucs blew a chance to add on.  A single by Adam Frazier and two walks loaded the bases with nobody out.  Unfortunately, Bell fanned and Polanco hit into a double play.

Sadly, the no-hitter didn’t last.  Nik Turley threw a perfect sixth.  With one out and one on in the seventh, though, Delino DeShields won the Cheesemaster of the Year Award by beating out a bunt against Sam Howard.  Cleveland got runners to the corners with two out in the inning, but Howard fanned Hernandez for the third out.

The Pirates added an insurance run in the top of the eighth.  Frazier doubled off Oliver Perez and Ke’Bryan Hayes singled to drive him in.  Other than that, it was pretty much a standard Pirate whiff-o-rama.  They fanned a dozen times.  But Jared Oliva did single and steal his first major league base in the ninth.

Chris Stratton had a quick eighth for the Pirates and Shelton sent him back for the ninth instead of Richard Rodriguez for whatever reason.  That second inning didn’t go so well.  Stratton got ahead 0-2 on the first hitter, then walked him and gave up an RBI double to Jordan Luplow.  One out later, DeShields hit a real single to tie the game.  After another out, a wild pitch and a Hernandez single to ended the game.

The Pirates are now 18-40.  Their Rocker Number is one, pending the outcome of the Rangers’ game.  They’re trailing by a run in the ninth as I write this.