The Pirates won their second straight blow out and came within one out of a no-hitter in beating the Braves, 10-1. They pounded out 17 hits and improved their spring record to 5-3-1, which is ju-u-u-st a bit better than last year’s 3-18. Last year, they gave up about seven runs per game; this year, about two and a half.
Steven Brault got off to a great start, striking out the side in the first inning. The second inning was tougher, as he walked three, but got through it with the help of a double play.
The most noteworthy performance was probably Miguel Yajure’s. He went six up and six down, finishing with two strikeouts. That came against some of baseball’s more imposing hitters, not just against AAA guys. Yajure might be a good fit with the new brain trust, as he throws four quality pitches and won’t have to deal with the “moarrr sinkerzzz” dictum. I thought J.T. Brubaker would be close to a lock for the fifth starter spot, but there may be a real battle here.
Chris Stratton, Edgar Santana (who so far looks like last spring), Sean Poppen and Sam Howard each contributed a hitless inning, with the only runner being a walk by Poppen. Nick Mears ran into trouble in the ninth because he couldn’t find the plate. He walked two, hit one, committed a balk, and allowed a two-out, bloop single to Phillip Ervin that brought in the only Atlanta run.
The hitters showed some more welcome signs. Adam Frazier was 3-for-3, so he’s off to a 5-for-6 start. Ke’Bryan Hayes was 2-for-2 with a walk and his daily extra-base hit, a double. Erik Gonzalez was 3-for-3 and Anthony Alford 2-for-2 with a walk. Alford played center, from which he may be hard to dislodge. The Pirates got two hits and three RBIs from Joe Hudson, who looks better at the plate than Tony Wolters or Miguel Perez. They also got a pinch-hit home run from Hunter Owen, who went 2-for-2, and a solo bomb from Troy Stokes, Jr.
On the downside, the hitting prospects continued to struggle. Kevin Kramer, Rodolfo Castro, Mason Martin, Will Craig and Oneil Cruz combined to go 0-for-9 with seven strikeouts.
So, it’s only spring and all, but so far this just doesn’t look like the 2020 Pirates. They have a lot of pitchers to sort through and the rotation doesn’t have the upside it would with Joe Musgrove and Jameson Taillon, but they’re doing more than simply looking for guys who can manage to get three outs eventually. And some of the bats that disappeared without a trace last year are showing early signs of life.