The Pirates again gave the World-Series-contending White Sox something resembling a challenge, but again came up short in a 6-3 loss. Max Kranick pitched pretty well if you don’t count one key pitch. Cole Tucker and Anthony Alford provided some offense, but the ongoing bullpen auditions didn’t go so well.
Kranick had the sort of start we’ve seen countless times this year. He began with three scoreless innings. The first two weren’t eventful. In the third, Kranick had to get out of a second-and-third jam with one out.
In the fourth, disaster struck. Kranick gave up a two-out, three-run home run to Gavin Sheets. The one-bad-inning routine seems to afflict Pirate starters about 3-4 times a week. I’ve finally concluded, though, that the phenomenon is more a matter of Pirate fans just not being used to seeing their team score runs the way major league teams do. Everybody else gets the big blast on a more or less regular basis. The Pirates’ offense, though, is based on stringing together enough infield hits, walks, errors and wild pitches to pick up a run here and there.
Like the fifth inning in this game. The Pirates did little against Carlos Rodon in the first four innings. In the fifth, Wilmer Difo reached on a one-out single, went to second on a wild pitch and third on a two-out infield hit by Hoy Park. Tucker then lined a single to right to make it 3-1.
In the bottom of the inning, Kranick couldn’t overcome his own teammates. With first and second, and one out, he got a grounder to Colin Moran that should have been a double play. Kranick, covering first on the return throw, got there well ahead of the batter, but Kevin Newman’s throw was far behind Kranick and let in a run. After a single put two on again, Derek Shelton went to Anthony Banda, who doesn’t appear to be very good. Leury Garcia doubled to drive in one run, putting the White Sox up, 5-1.
The Pirates managed to get a couple of runs off the Sox’ bullpen. Alford hit his second home run of the year in the seventh. In the eighth, Tucker led off with a double and eventually came around on a two-out single by Jacob Stallings.
In the seventh, Shelby Miller had made his Pirates’ debut, facing only three hitters thanks to a line drive double play. In the eighth, another of the Pirates’ dustbin reliever pickups, Duane Underwood, Jr., gave up Sheets’ second longball of the day, making it 6-3. The Pirates went down quickly in the ninth.