The Pirates got off to a good start in their series opener in Cincinnati, with a pair of dingers in the first inning. But their hitters spent the rest of the game flailing helplessly, fanning 15 times in a 5-3 loss.
The longballs in the first came from Phillip Evans’ first of the year and Colin Moran’s second. And that was just about the end of the offense. The only other hit through the first eight innings came from J.T. Brubaker.
It was obvious going into spring training that the Pirates were going to carry a bunch of hitters who’d be liabilities. So far, they’ve been even worse than probably anybody imagined. Gregory Polanco, Erik Gonzalez, Anthony Alford, Dustin Fowler, Michael Perez and the newly added Wilmer Difo (that’s half the team’s current position players) have combined to go 3-for-46 with no RBIs and 22 strikeouts. The 6-8 spots in the order have combined to go 3-for-41. (Obviously, some of that is Jacob Stallings, but he’s earned his job.) Today, Polanco, Gonzalez, Fowler, Alford and Difo went 0-for-13.
Brubaker had sort-of a good start. In keeping with the team’s pattern, he ran up a big pitch count, 82 in four innings. He threw a semi-reasonable number of strikes — 50 — but still walked four. Brubaker should have finished with no runs allowed, but Evans delayed throwing to second for a force on a grounder and the out call was overturned on replay. That prolonged the inning enough for Brubaker’s mound opponent, Jose De Leon, to drive in a run with a two-out single. On the plus side, Brubaker fanned six and allowed only three hits, all singles.
The interesting part of the bullpen’s performance was two innings from Luis Oviedo. He gave up a gopher ball to Mike Moustakas, which tied the game, but that was the only baserunner. Oviedo threw 22 of 33 pitches for strikes and fanned four. His velocity dropped a bit in his second inning, but he struck out the side anyway.
Sam Howard struck out two in his inning, but gave up a home run to Nick Castellanos, costing Howard the loss. Michael Feliz blew up the game in the eighth, allowing two runs on two doubles, a single and a walk.
The consequences of Feliz’ bad outing became clear quickly, as Bryan Reynolds started the ninth with his first home run of the year, off Amir Garrett. Why exactly the Pirates are convinced Feliz is going to stop being the guy he’s been since 2015 isn’t clear, but it’s getting harder and harder to watch. Anyway, Moran followed Reynolds’ blast with a single. Gonzalez whiffed and Polanco hit into a force play. Stallings walked, but Kevin Newman, batting for Fowler, grounded out. The Pirates are now 1-3.