The Pirates actually managed to score in Coors Field, but it made no difference to the outcome. The team’s hitting remained a travesty as the Rockies finished the three-game sweep, 6-2.
The Pirates put up some quick offense in the first. Adam Frazier started the game with a triple, then scored on a sacrifice fly by Ke’Bryan Hayes. Bryan Reynolds ripped his 14th home run of the year and it was 2-0.
But then the Pirates turned back into the Pirates. Of course, it doesn’t help when your #4-8 hitters are a flat out joke. You’d think Ben Cherington and Derek Shelton would be embarrassed to start a lineup in which the 4-8 hitters are batting as follows (and this was before the game — it’s worse now):
And it’s not like that anemia is offset by any power, or anything else, for that matter. Kevin Newman and Ka’ai Tom came in with slugging averages of .268 and .256, while Phillip Evans was at .321. Michael Perez had an OBP of .230, Newman .253, Evans .296, and Ben Gamel .297. And a couple of the team’s worst hitters, Erik Gonzalez and Gregory Polanco, weren’t even in the lineup, although they both contributed pinch-hit strikeouts.
After the outburst by the Pirates’ first three hitters, Colorado starter Jon Gray waltzed through the rest of the first and five more innings, allowing no more hits. He sensibly walked Hayes once and Reynolds twice, knowing there was no danger from the hitters after Reynolds.
Pirates’ starter Chad Kuhl began well, with three scoreless innings, including three strikeouts in the first. In the fourth, though, he started losing the strike zone. C.J. Cron led off that inning with a home run, but there was no more damage.
In the fifth, Kuhl was all over the place. After he fanned Gray, a walk, a bad pickoff throw that went for an error on Evans, and a double by Garrett Hampson tied the game. A wild pitch and a hit batsman ended Kuhl’s day. Chris Stratton gave up a sacrifice fly to put the Rockies ahead, 3-2, then managed to leave the bases loaded without any more runs scoring.
Stratton departed in the bottom of the sixth with one out and a runner on second. Shelton went with Sam Howard, just back from the injured list. He should maybe have stayed on it a little longer. The first three batters singled, making the score 5-2 and ending Howard’s streak of having stranded every runner he’d inherited all season.
David Bednar gave up a run in the bottom of the seventh. It was set up by a 14-pitch walk to .160-hitting catcher Dom Nunez. Chasen Shreve had a quick eighth.
Meanwhile, the Rockies replaced Gray with the undistinguished Tyler Kinley. He started off by striking out Tom on a pitch out of the strike zone. He then fanned pinch hitter Polanco in a seven-pitch at-bat in which Kinley didn’t throw a single pitch in the strike zone. Maybe Polanco should have tried to learn something from Nunez.
And so it went. Two more unexceptional Colorado relievers set the Pirates down with ease in the eighth and ninth. Frazier had a single in the seventh and Reynolds had one in the eighth. Tom again had a hit in the ninth, this one a double. Five hits, two each by Frazier and Reynolds. The lineup after Reynolds went 1-for-22. “Cleanup” hitter Gamel was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
In the three-game series, the Pirates managed two runs and 12 hits, three for extra bases. The Rockies are a weak-hitting team; they’re 12th in the NL in OPS+, which is park-adjusted. But they had 16 runs and 32 hits, 13 for extra bases, one more than the Pirates had hits.
It’s well beyond time that Cherington make some effort to field a lineup that at least remotely resembles a major league team. It’s not like these are prospects. The 4-8 hitters today are all between 27 and 29, so they’re in their prime now. They aren’t going to get better. Polanco and Gonzalez are nearly 30. Not one of these guys is going to play a role on a good Pirates’ team, so there’s no reason to hold on to any of them. There’s nothing about rebuilding that requires a team to cling to players who can’t handle the major leagues and who aren’t likely to improve. There’s no downside whatsoever in moving on, even if it’s with random waiver pickups and guys from AAA who previously struggled in the majors.