The Pirates fell behind, 9-1, to Tampa Bay at LECOM Park, then came back to make a game of it before losing, 10-9. The game produced 35 hits, 18 by the Rays and 17 by the Pirates. The Bucs had a lot of good performances, but one really bad one.
That would be Mitch Keller. He got ripped for eight runs while recording only six outs. His stuff looked good enough but his command was something different. Things started innocuously enough, as Austin Meadows beat out a swinging bunt. Keller got to 2-2 against Manuel Margot, but couldn’t put him away and issued a walk. The next four hitters hit the ball hard, getting three hits and a deep sacrifice fly. (One of the hits should have been caught, as it ticked off Cole Tucker’s glove and he wasn’t fully extended.) At that point, the Pirates went to Chasen Shreve to get the last two outs of the inning.
Keller came back out in the second, under the pandemic rules this spring, and things continued much the same in the second and third innings. He fell behind nearly every hitter and they hunted fastballs. The result was three home runs and an RBI double, all on fastballs with Keller behind in the count. Clay Holmes had to get the last out in the third.
The other pitchers were more effective. Shreve had trouble throwing strikes, walking his first batter to load the bases and falling behind the next, Brett Sullivan. In the end, he managed to get four outs in a nine-pitch at-bat. Shreve should have gotten a strikeout on an attempted check swing on a 2-2 pitch, but the umps blew the call. Later in the AB, Sullivan popped up behind the plate and Jacob Stallings dropped it. (It was a tough play.) Shreve finally got a GIDP to end the inning. Holmes had an easier time, getting a ground out on two pitches and then departing.
Chase De Jong gave up one run over three innings. That one wasn’t his fault, as Anthony Alford decided to pass on a high popup that ended up being scored as a double. De Jong is looking way more interesting than I thought he would, considering that he’s had little success above AA. Today he threw only 18 fastballs among his 45 pitches and those were all 92-94 mph. Nothing else topped 86, as he constantly mixed sliders, curves and changeups, and allowed little hard contact. So far, he looks better than Sean Poppen or Cody Ponce.
Michael Feliz went 3-0 on his first hitter, but ended up with a 1-2-3 inning and two strikeouts. He threw mostly fastballs, 93-94, but some sliders and several changeups. He generally hasn’t thrown the latter much, so I wonder whether we’ll see it more this year.
Rich Rodriguez had a very annoying inning . . . well, third of an inning. He got one K, but allowed a ground ball single, a walk where it looked like he got squeezed a couple times, and two popups that nobody could get to. Not really much he could do about it. Braeden Ogle stranded the three runners he inherited from Rodriguez. Ogle gave up a wicked liner from Wander Franco on which Kevin Kramer made a nice leaping grab at third, and a strikeout looking on a pair of nasty sliders. Ogle sat at 96.
Yerry De Los Santos had a nine-pitch ninth, thanks to a 5-4-3 double play. He threw 94-95 with a sweeping slider.
The hitters mostly had a good day. They did some damage against some guy called Glass-something, who was sitting at 99 early. Adam Frazier, who was 2-for-3, tripled to deep center and scored on a hard single by Ke’Bryan Hayes in the first. A couple innings later, Bryan Reynolds ripped a bomb to right after a walk to Hayes, Reynolds’ second of the spring.
Colin Moran torched his first home run of the spring to center off Nick Anderson, who was the Rays’ best reliever last year. (Fun fact: The Rays had 12 different pitchers record saves last year in a 60-game season.) Moran was 2-for-3 and Gregory Polanco added a double, so the top half of the order did fine.
The younger guys put up some offense against the Rays’ bullpen. Nick Gonzales doubled off the fence in right-center. He also got a single on a very high popup behind first on which three Rays defenders performed evasive maneuvers to avoid having the ball fall on them.
With the score 9-6, Jared Oliva had a bases-loaded double that should have gone for a game-tying triple, but it bounced out of play. Will Craig, Ji-Hwan Bae and Hunter Owen all had drives caught at the fence, athough the wind was a factor once or twice.
And Liover Peguero made his Pirates debut, playing short for the last four innings. At the plate, he popped up on the first pitch he saw, drew a walk and stole second (by a mile), and got rung up on a couple of close pitches.