Pirates Notebook: Streak Gets to Six; Karstens Moved to Bullpen
The Pittsburgh Pirates losing streak reached a season-high six games on Wednesday after falling 2-1 to Cincinnati. While the pitching staff kept the club in the game, the offense continues to struggle. That has been the story during the streak for the Pirates. Aside from losing 12-2 in the blow out on Friday against Chicago, Pittsburgh lost each of their next five games by two runs or less. The Bucco bats have failed to score more than three runs in any of the past six games.
Against starter Homer Bailey and the Reds bullpen on Wednesday, the club was only able to scratch one run across. In the fourth inning trailing by one, Andrew McCutchen and Garrett Jones started a rally by each picking up a single off the Reds’ right-hander. The club has struggled with RISP during the series, going just 4-for-32, but Gaby Sanchez was able to drive in the lone run for the Bucs in the frame.
Sanchez launched a ball just foul of the pole in left field in his lenghty at-bat, just several feet short foul of his second long ball in as many days. Instead, the first baseman ripped a single to right field to tie the game up at 1. But from there, the club didn’t have many opportunities on offense.
The only other baserunner the Pirates had in scoring position came in the sixth inning. Alex Presley connected for a one-out triple, but was tagged out at home plate. With Clint Barmes at the plate, the Pirates attempted a squeeze play off Cincinnati, but the Reds’ had a pitch out and Barmes was unable to get a piece of the ball off the end of his bat. Presley slid into home plate, but catcher Ryan Hanigan had plenty of time to nail him at the dish.
Veteran A.J Burnett has been the stopper for the Bucs a lot during the season, but was unable to help stop the skid for the team on Wednesday. Burnett was solid for the Pirates, holding the offensive Reds’ lineup to just two runs over six innings. The two lone runs that Burnett allowed came in the third and sixth innings.
A costly wild pitch from Burnett in the third pushed up a leadoff single from Hanigan to third base. Wilson Valdez then grounded to second base to push in the first run. The other was a sac fly hit from Scott Rolen in the sixth. Ryan Ludwick doubled to lead off the frame, then advanced to third on a deep fly out to center before Rolen drove in the eventual winning run.
Despite getting swept from the Reds, and falling to just two games over .500 (72-70), the Pirates still remain 2.5 back from St. Louis for the second spot in the Wild Card. The Cardinals were also swept (San Diego). Pittsburgh has the day off on Thursday, their final off day of the regular season. St. Louis and Los Angeles, who are half a game behind the Cardinals in the Wild Card, open up a four-game series tomorrow.
Karstens’ Moved to ‘Pen as Rotation Could Shuffle
Jeff Karstens has been working his way back to getting on the mound after re-tweaking a right hip flexor injury on August 31st in Milwaukee. The right-hander threw a simulated game on Tuesday in Cincinnati, and could be seeing game action again soon with the Pirates.
Karstens will join the bullpen over the weekend in Chicago, although the move to relief is short term. Karstens will be made available in the upcoming four-game series from the bullpen, as Kevin Correia makes his third spot start in place of Karstens.
Hurdle set the rotation for Chicago, going with James McDonald on Friday, Wandy Rodriguez Saturday, Jeff Locke Sunday and Correia on Monday against the Cubs. But the rotation hasn’t been set past that series. Manager Clint Hurdle could use the off day on Thursday to shuffle the rotation and line it up for the series starting on Tuesday against Milwaukee in Pittsburgh.
According to Tom Singer of MLB.com, Hurdle said on Wednesday that after discussing the rotation in Chicago, that would set up Rodriguez for the third game against the Brewers.
So who would start on Tuesday and Wednesday? With the day off, Hurdle could elect to move up Burnett to the series finale on Monday, giving the veteran his regular days of rest, and taking Correia out of the rotation. It could also open up a spot for Karstens to slide in, or give rookie Kyle McPherson the opportunity for a spot start on Tuesday with McDonald going Wednesday. Hurdle mentioned today that if an opportunity presented itself, he would like to give the ball to McPherson. The club could also elect to skip McDonald in the rotation, who continues to struggle in the second half.
Jared Hughes Releases Statement
Pirates reliever Jared Hughes released a statement on Wednesday re: the Brandon Phillips dispute that occurred in Monday’s extra innings game.
“In response to Brandon Phillips’ TV interview yesterday prior to the game, I feel compelled to once again make it perfectly clear that I did not make any comment with a racial undertone or connotation during our exchange on Monday night, period. While I cannot repeat everything that I said because I did swear, it is obvious when reviewing the tape that I in no way, shape or form made any remark that was in any way connected to race. It is not how I was raised and not who I am as a person.”
Alvarez Scratched From Lineup
Pedro Alvarez was scratched from the lineup prior to the game on Wednesday due to right wrist discomfort. There was no update on Alvarez’s status.
Josh Harrison was inserted into the lineup to play third base and bat second. Harrison went 0-for-3.