Have no fear, the end is near. Or maybe already here. The start of the NFL season gives Pittsburgh fans the chance to watch professional sports for the first time in months.
This game should have been an ideal opportunity for the Pirates to sweep somebody. The Nationals’ starter, lefty Patrick Corbin, is having a nightmare season. Luckily for him, baseball’s worst offense was tailor-made for him to get things turned around.
The Pirates got down to doing Pirate things right away. Ke’Bryan Hayes led off the bottom of the first with a single. Derek Shelton then had Kevin Newman bunt because, when you have by far the worst offense in baseball with runners in scoring position, the obvious thing to do is give up an out to get a runner in scoring position. No problem for Corbin. He walked the Pirates’ major league hitter, bringing up Colin Moran, whose .611 OPS against lefties made him the perfect choice to bat cleanup. Moran and Jacob Stallings both grounded out and the Pirates were off and running.
On the pitching side, Bryse Wilson did his best Wil Crowe impersonation. Or was it Chase De Jong? Or Cody Ponce? Or Dillon Peters? Well, I’m not sure, there are just so many of those guys who consistently give you 4-5 below-average innings. You can’t have too many of those guys.
Wilson followed the script, pitching pretty well for three innings, apart from a gopher ball served up to Luis Garcia in the second. Wilson even got the run back in the bottom of the inning. Singles by Wilmer Difo and Anthony Alford, followed by a force out, got runners to the corners. Wilson laid down a good bunt and Difo charged home at the right time, leaving Corbin with no choice but to throw to first.
The Pirates even took a 2-1 lead in the third. With Shelton not yet a believer in the leadoff sacrifice bunt, Newman tripled and Bryan Reynolds got him home with a sacrifice fly.
And that was the end of the offense. Corbin, grateful for the chance to get his ERA under 6.00, retired 13 straight Pirates through the end of the seventh. The game also marked the first time in Corbin’s last ten starts that he hadn’t given up a home run.
Wilson meanwhile stayed on script. Right on schedule, in the fourth, with two out, he gave up Alex Avila’s first home run of the year. Then a double brought up Corbin, who singled to put runners on the corners. And Lane Thomas homered, putting the Nationals up, 5-2.
The Pirates’ bullpen locked the barn door pretty well. Luis Oviedo emerged from the closet to give up one run over two innings. The rumor that he got out of the closet sooner than usual due to the intervention of Child Protective Services remains unsubstantiated. Connor Overton made his Pirate debut with a scoreless inning, which gives him a leg up on becoming the next four-below-average-innings guy.
The Pirates finally got a couple runners on base in the eighth, but Hoy Park got caught trying to advance, with a four run deficit, when a pitch got not-far-enough away. They went down meekly in the ninth. The Pirates finished with five hits, 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. The final was 6-2.