Everybody had a learning experience in the opener of the Pirates’ series in Milwaukee. The Pirates found out that Bryse Wilson has some ability, and Wilson found out what it’s like to pitch with baseball’s worst offense behind you. A good effort just gets you a 6-2 loss.
Wilson didn’t exactly dominate. In fact, he didn’t strike out anybody. He did, though, give up just two hits and two walks over five innings.
The only run Wilson allowed, in fact the only trouble that he got into, came in the third, and he didn’t exactly get hammered. An infield hit, a steal, and a bunt single by Brewers starter Eric Lauer put runners at the corners with nobody out. Kolten Wong got one run in with a sacrifice fly. With the help of a double play, Wilson faced the minimum from that point until the end of the fifth.
The Pirates’ offense had another one of their many, many days of grinding, mind-numbing futility. They got runners past first only twice in the first eight innings, once in the second with a single and hit batsman, the other time in the fourth on a one-out double by John Nogowski. They never got a runner to third.
So it was 1-0 through five, but with Wilson having thrown only 74 pitches, Derek Shelton decided that was too close for comfort. He went to Kyle Keller, who got the first two outs but then allowed a walk and an Eduardo Escobar triple. Keller next hit Avisail Garcia with a pitch. Obviously, the thing to do was put Chasen Shreve in to face left-handed Rowdy Tellez, but with the Pirates’ bullpen practically deserted . . .
. . . Shelton had no choice. Keller stayed in and intentionally walked Tellez to load the bases, then walked the next batter to make it 3-0.
But it didn’t really matter in the end. The bullpen is going to be a series of experiments the rest of the year, and tonight’s experiment, Nick Mears, didn’t work. Mears gave up a three-run bomb to Escobar, making the score 6-0.
Even worse, Mears left with an injury, which brought Shea Spitzbarth in for his major league debut. It took Spitzbarth eight pitches to throw his first major league strike, but after a walk and a single he got his first major league out. Which is fine. There’s no real harm at this point in giving opportunities to guys who might, or might not, turn into useful players. But there’s a bizarre illogic in giving chances to pitchers like Mears and Spitzbarth, while continuing to run out veteran hitters who have zero chance of contributing to a winning Pirates team. An untried pitcher can do a lot more damage than an untried position player, so why the unthinking dread of playing the latter?
Anyway, the Pirates hitters slunk away in the eight and Spitzbarth had a quick bottom of the inning. In the ninth, John Axford made his first major league appearance in three years. He hit Bryan Reynolds and gave up two singles to load the bases with one out. Axford next walked pinch hitter Ben Gamel to force in a run and then left with an injury. Brad Boxberger relieved and walked in another run before inevitably getting the last out.