The Pirates ran into a perfect storm of bad indicators today. They had a chance to sweep Philadelphia, Derek Shelton went with a Sunday lineup, Mitch Keller started, Luis Oviedo made one of his rare appearances. With all these factors in play, a 15-4 loss was about what we should have expected.
In his first start back from an uninspiring stint in AAA, Keller aptly illustrated the difference between command and control. He lasted five innings and didn’t walk anybody, but put pitch after pitch belt-high and over the plate. The result was eight hits, five of them doubles. It would have been worse but for a leaping catch at the wall by Bryan Reynolds. Keller allowed four runs before leaving.
Keller’s biggest contribution was at the plate. The Pirates’ only run in the first six innings came when Keller walked with two outs in the third — the first baserunner off Kyle Gibson — and came around on singles by Ben Gamel and Wilmer Difo.
Cody Ponce replaced Keller and got hit just as hard. He allowed seven hits in two innings, including three more doubles, and gave up two runs.
The comedy element took over in the eighth. Luis Oviedo shook the dust off his glove and came in to throw 27 pitches, only nine of them strikes. He retired nobody out of five batters, four of them walks, and left with two runs in and the bases loaded. Nick Mears came on to let all three runners score.
That left Shelton in a bind for somebody to pitch the ninth. He couldn’t send Mears back out there just because, and he only has 14 pitchers on the roster. His only choice was to send John Nogowski out to pitch for the third time in less than a month as a Pirate, and second time in four days. Nogowski gave up two runs. The bullpen was saved.
The offense didn’t have it worse day, at least. Hoy Park got his first Pirates hit with a double in the seventh. He came around to score on a sacrifice fly by Kevin Newman. In the ninth, Michael Perez hit his seventh home run of the year following Rodolfo Castro’s second career single. And, most important of all, the bullpen was saved.