Wandy Rodriguez didn’t impress over his first four starts with Pittsburgh after being traded from Houston. The left-hander posted a 5.58 ERA over 24.2 innings, before taking the mound at PNC Park on Friday. Not having started since the 15th, Rodriguez did pitch two innings of relief in the Bucs 19-inning marathon game in St. Louis. Rodriguez looked much sharper and tossed a quality start.
“He has really tried to validate this trade in a short period of time, and I think it’s probably worked probably counter productively,” Manager Clint Hurdle said. “We had a nice chat the other day with [pitcher Jeff] Karstens in here interpreting. I just gave him my take on it and what I’ve seen over the years. We don’t expect him to hit a hyper space button and take it to another level. We like the guy that we’ve seen over time.”
“I think that probably got a little weight off his back as far as going out there and [trying to get] the W.”
The Pirates have struggled in the first innings over their last week of games. The opposing team has scored first in 21 of their last 25 games, which included three straight in San Diego. Rodriguez was able to put a zero up in the first to snap the streak and give himself a boost.
After retiring his first batter, Rodriguez walked his next on five pitches. The left-hander was able to get Ryan Braun to hit into an inning ending double play to end it.
However, struggles came for Rodriguez in the second. Three straight hits sent two runs in quickly for the Brewers. With Aramis Ramirez on first, Corey Hart ripped a double into the gap in left center field to drive him in. The relay throw from Clint Barmes to home went off the home plate line allowing Hart to advance to third. Jonathan Lucroy followed with a base knock to send home the second run.
Another fielding error from Barmes, this time a bobble on a ground ball up the left side, allowed runners on first and second still with no outs. Rodriguez walked the eighth batter he faced to load up the bases. After striking out the pitcher, Rodriguez was able to get Norichika Aoki to ground into a huge double play back to the lefty, who threw home for the first out, and first to keep the Brewers from plating another run.
“It was good because in that situation I’m looking for a double play,” Rodriguez said. “I threw a very good pitch and he hit it back to me and I did it.”
Rodriguez went on to retire seven of his next eight batters before allowing a one-out double in the fifth frame. The left-hander got Rickie Weeks to ground out to third, to keep the runner on the bag, and chose to intentionally walk Ryan Braun. Ramirez grounded out to keep the game tied at 2.
“The night in Cincinnati he was very good as well,” Hurdle said on Rodriguez’s performance. “That volume of work was very good. Tonight, we saw the ball down, we saw the better sharp breaking ball, better command, location. He pitched inside effective. A very good outing tonight. Hopefully that’s something he can build upon.”
“He pitched much better. Pitched with much better confidence. He was more in control with everything as far as his game went.”
The southpaw got the Brewers to ground into their third double play in the sixth, after allowing a leadoff single, but was unable to escape the seventh. A one out single and a fielder’s choice forced Hurdle to pull the veteran from the game for right-hander Jared Hughes.
“I felt very good tonight,” Rodriguez said. “I had better location this time. The last start I missed a lot of my location. I’m more comfortable with my pitches. In the seventh inning, I felt good, I can figure it out, but the manager took me out. Went to the bullpen, and I respect that decision because he’s the manager.”
Hughes, who had allowed just one of his 25 inherited runners to score this season, worked himself into a jam. The righty hit a batter, then issued a second free pass to load up the bases.
Ramirez took a pitch to deep right center field. All-Star Andrew McCutchen showed off his set of wheels, but was unable to come up with the ball after a sliding attempt up against the wall. McCutchen was checked out by the training staff and remained in the game after attempting to make the catch up against the wall.
“He banged his left knee against the cement wall trying to lay out for that ball, but he’s okay,” Hurdle said. “It was initially just the pain from just hitting it. But it actually freed up. We’ll know tomorrow.”
The double cleared the bases, charging Rodriguez with a third and final run. Hughes went on to allow the Brewers to plate a fourth run in the frame which proved to be the game changer as the Pirates lost by one run.
“If you’ll check the young man’s track record, he’s probably pitched as well as anybody we’ve got out of the pen,” Hurdle said on Hughes. “It’s another situation where, it’s not what you want when you want it. This man has been very instrumental and doing a lot of good things for us in various roles out in the bullpen. His numbers speak for himself. The inherited runners that haven’t scored, if you look at those numbers they’re pretty impressive as well. He got put in the blender tonight. We’ve all been in the blender at one time or another these last two weeks. We’ve just got to keep trusting one another, keep backing one another and go out and keep playing.”
Overall Rodriguez allowed three runs on six hits over 6.2 innings. He walked four and struck out three while throwing 100 pitches, 65 strikes.
Takahashi Will Help Free Up Watson in Pen
The Pirates today claimed left-handed relief pitcher Hisanori Takahashi off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Takahashi posted a 4.93 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 42 relief appearances this year for the Angels.
“When he was with the Mets he was more of a starter,” Hurdle said of Takahashi’s role. “His time in Los Angeles he was able to piggy back with another left-hander. When one of the left-handers was fresh, they could a multiple out left-hander because he has pitches to go right-handers as well as left-handers.”
“The experience factor, the skill set, the numbers leading up to this year, the last two seasons have been very favorable. We’ve been looking for another left-hander to add to compliment [Tony] Watson. This also frees Watson up for a more versatile role. I think from what everyone has seen from this guy, we thought it would be a good guy to balance our bullpen and give us another weapon in various ways.”
Hurdle said that adding the second lefty will not change their plan with Justin Wilson, who pitched a scoreless inning in relief last night at Triple-A. The organization still plans on using Wilson in relief down the stretch of the season.
“I don’t think it’s going to change Justin’s plan,” Hurdle said. “I think we’re going to come in, and evaluate [Wilson] for a little while longer. Time will tell.”
Marte Progressing Through Oblique Injury
Starling Marte was feeling better today, after having rest an oblique injury which forced him on the disabled list on Sunday. The rookie outfielder has not had any kind of exercise since exiting the game on Saturday in St. Louis.
“I just got the note that he was feeling better,” Hurdle said. “The doctors examined him. From there, they’ll see what kind of activity that he can get involved in.”
“He is progressing as expected and we will update as his progress dictates,” General Manager Neal Huntington said on Marte’s status.
Pirates Battling Through ‘The Hard’ Right Now
The Pirates had their first off day on Thursday after having played 20 games in 20 straight days. During that span, the club went just 7-12 and saw themselves drop out of the second spot in the National League Wild Card and fall eight games behind the first place Cincinnati Reds entering game action today.
“The game is hard right now for us,” Hurdle said. “It’s been challenging. This is all part of what I think we’re going to have to go through and need to go through and learn how to continue to be effective, to stay optimistic, to stay positive, to challenge one another, and encourage one another through the dog days of August.”
Although Hurdle admits there are challenges through a 20-game stretch without a day off, he has no excuses for the way the team played poorly.
“We have not pitched as well,” Hurdle said. “It wasn’t really until lately. The start of August was pretty optimistic, but the last two weeks have been challenging. We haven’t pitched as well as we were. We haven’t been able to get runners in from scoring position as well as we were. At the end of the day, that’s going to tell the story. And we’ve played from behind a lot more so than any other point in time in the season. Those are all areas that we are trying to find always to calibrate better, to get back in the right place.”
“The starting pitching, the number of runs given up in the first inning has been challenging. 90-59. We’re getting outscored pretty dramatically in the first inning. Especially of late. We’ve got to put an end to that. We’ve got to figure that one out…There’s going to be fatigue to some degree for every team at this point in time of the year. At the end of the day, we’ve just got to play better baseball, more consistently.”