In game one of their doubleheader, the Pirates unleashed a flood of well placed dribblers and the terror of NEWMAN PAHR to break their eight-game losing streak with a 14-4 stomping of Milwaukee. In just six innings, the Bucs piled up 19 hits and Kevin Newman tied the MLB record of four doubles in one game.
Things looked very different at the start. Kolten Wong led off the game with a bomb off Bryse Wilson. In the bottom of the first, Brett Anderson struck out the side. Then in the top of the second, a single, double and single put the Brewers up, 3-0. It looked like another dreary loss was on the way.
But . . . baseball.
In the bottom of the third, the Pirates hit on the strategy of killing worms. Newman, who wasn’t originally in the lineup, led off with a ground ball double. He went to third on a sacrifice by Wilson and scored on an infield hit by Hoy Park, who gets down the line faster than I expected. Another infield hit and a walk loaded the bases, and a Colin Moran ground out — on which Rowdy Tellez maybe should have gone directly for the force at home rather than stepping on first — made it 3-2. Willy Adames then made a nice stop on a grounder by Jacob Stallings, but with plenty of time — because Stallings — threw the ball away. The scorer inexplicably ruled it a two-run single, but whatever. It was 4-3, Pirates.
Wilson stayed pretty shaky, giving up a tying home run to Tyrone Taylor and a double, fortunately in that order, in the fourth. But the Pirates went back in front, 6-4, in the bottom half when another Newman double set up RBI singles by pinch hitter John Nogowski and Ke’Bryan Hayes.
Chasen Shreve came on for the fifth and started with a walk, but fanned the next three hitters. In the bottom half, the rout began.
With two on, Newman barreled a shot into the ground two feet in front of the plate and it caromed about 20 feet over the third baseman’s head for double #3 and two runs. Pinch hitter Wilmer Difo rolled a hit through the middle for another run, a single and a force out brought in a fourth, and Bryan Reynolds made it six in the inning by lining one into the right field seats for dinger #21.
That made it 12-4 and the Pirates added on two last runs in the sixth. Newman started it with double #4 and Reynolds eventually drove in two with a bases-loaded single.
The Pirates were ahead by enough that Derek Shelton went with Nick Mears and Luis Oviedo for the last two innings, both of which went by in 1-2-3 fashion. Mears needed only ten pitches in the sixth and Oviedo fanned two in the seventh.
Newman not only hit four doubles and added 25 points to his OPS, he scored four times. Reynolds drove in four, giving him 71 on the year. That puts him on pace to finish right around 100 RBIs. Park had three hits.
Game Two had a more familiar ring as the Pirates were dominated by a rookie starter with zero previous success in the majors. Mitch Keller had the usual head-scratching performance and the Pirates lost, 6-0.
Keller managed to allow nine hits and a walk in just four and a third innings, but the Brewers got only two runs off him. Even those two runs might not have scored but for the Pirates’ never-ending, idiotic practice of playing infielders in the outfield. In the fourth, with one on, Difo in right failed to catch a catchable fly ball. A one-out single scored one run and a force play that should have ended the inning scored a second. On the other hand, a perfect strike from Reynolds cut down Adames at the plate to end the third, so maybe Keller can be blamed for one run.
The Pirates meanwhile were helpless against Aaron Ashby. This was his third major league start; he lasted a grand total of two and two-thirds innings in the first two, retiring only eight of the 18 batters he faced. Ashby had no trouble with the Pirates, allowing just three singles over four innings. The Pirates’ one chance came in the second when they got runners to the corners with one out. Michael Perez, who’s now batting .105 with runners in scoring position, whiffed and Keller bounced out.
Anthony Banda got the last two outs in the fifth, but Chris Stratton gave up three in the sixth to put the game out of reach. One of the runs wasn’t his fault, as Newman and Hayes managed to get tangled up on a popup, allowing it to drop. One run scored on a wild pickoff throw by Perez, the last two on a pinch hit home run by Rowdy Tellez. Stratton’s allowed 11 earned runs in his last five innings. That made it 5-0 and Milwaukee got a final run when Avisail Garcia homered off Shea Spitzbarth in the seventh.
The Pirates got nowhere against the Brewers’ bullpen. They picked up just a single and a walk over the last three innings. Keller is now 3-10.