The Pirates all year have avoided falling into the abyss because they have several legitimately good players and another handful who are capable. Those players have been just enough for them to win a couple games here and there, and not be the Diamondbacks. Now, they’ve lost one good player, one capable one, and one sometimes-good one. And it’s looking like they might have crossed that fine line.
Tonight’s game was the Pirates’ second straight unwatchable mess against the Brewers, one they lost, 7-3. For the second straight game, an inexperienced starter was thrown in with little notice, this time Max Kranick. Of course, it could be worse. Under the previous regime, Steven Wright and his stratospheric ERA would get called up.
Kranick actually had a couple stretches where he pitched well. He survived a string of hard-hit balls with only one run scoring in the first, thanks to a line drive double play. The second and third went quickly as Kranick at least threw strikes.
Kranick almost got out of a first-and-third, no-out jam in the fourth. Unfortunately, a two-out double by Lorenzo Cain put Milwaukee up, 3-0.
After a quick fifth, Kranick quickly lost it in the sixth. Two singles and a hit batsman loaded the bases with nobody out. After removing pitchers who were pitching well at the first hint of minor trouble, Derek Shelton naturally left Kranick in. A two-run double was the result. Chasen Shreve let one more run score, so Kranick was charged with six over five innings.
Meanwhile, the Pirates’ hitters were spending their time at the plate as productively as sitting in traffic. Adrian Houser breezed through five shutout innings, allowing only two Ke’Bryan Hayes singles.
Eric Lauer had almost as easy a time over the next three innings. The one interruption in all the futility was Rodolfo Castro’s fourth home run, a long blast well over the left-center notch in the seventh inning. Shreve gave up a run in the top of the seventh, then Kyle Keller and David Bednar each had a quick, two-strikeout inning.
For some reason, the Brewers sent Josh Hader out for the ninth to protect a 7-1 lead. Incredibly, with one on and one out, Castro launched his fifth home run, which also happened to be his fifth major league hit. Off Josh F. Hader, who had held opponents to a .128 BA and .200 SLG. (Both dingerz, btw, were against LHPs, who generally slice and dice the Pirates with ease.)
Of course, that was it and the game ended, 7-3. No doubt, opponents will start getting a lot more careful with Castro and he’ll have some adjustments to make, probably after coming back to earth for a bit. But it is possible that the front office could give at least some fans a few reasons to follow the team the rest of the year. It wouldn’t have to be Castro every day. It could be some of the recent trade acquisitions, or one of the hitters who’s doing well at Altoona. Just not the endless parade of dead-enders whom all the fans know will never be part of a good team in Pittsburgh.