Pirates Lose Another Extra-Inning Game in Atlanta

Andrew McCutchen Pirates

Andrew McCutchen was the only Pirates player with more than one hit. (Photo credit: David Hague)

In the 6th inning on Tuesday night, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle had a decision to make.

Starting pitcher Jeff Locke had just made his 103rd pitch, and it was lined by Atlanta Braves’ second baseman Dan Uggla into left for a two-out single. With right-handed-hitting B.J. Upton up to bat and Locke about to tie his career high for most pitches in one game, Hurdle dipped into the bullpen for righty Ryan Reid to maintain the Bucs’ two-run lead.

The lead disappeared in four pitches. Reid, in his second Major League game, served up a fastball that missed his spot low and outside and instead left it over the plate. Upton destroyed it to just left of straight-away center. Tie game. In fact, all the runs came on homers and doubles, which is like, such a Braves vs. Pirates thing to happen.

  • 2nd inning: Gaby Sanchez wrecks a pitch from starter Mike Minor, but it’s pulled just to the left of the left-field foul pole. Doesn’t matter. Sanchez blasts another fastball right down the middle over the fence to put the Pirates up 1-0.
  • 3rd inning: The Pirates’ run production has been hampered by their .219 average with runners in scoring position being dead-last in the NL. Regression to the mean, meet Andrew McCutchen facing a lefty. McCutchen roped a curveball down the left-field line, scoring Jeff Locke and Jordy Mercer from scoring position to make it a 3-0 lead. But regression to the mean runs both ways. In the Bottom 3rd, Locke was a strike away from stranding two more runners. Instead, Freddie Freeman (who battled for great at-bats all night) reached out and flipped a curveball tailing low and away and dropped it down the left-field line to drive in two runs.
  • 4th inning: Pedro Alvarez was the only left-handed position player starting against the lefty Minor, and he showed why. Minor left a belt-high fastball outside, and Alvarez demolished it for a solo shot, his team-high 12th home run.

Jeff Locke pitched pretty well in striking out seven Braves hitters over 5.2 innings despite allowing six hits and two walks, dropping his season FIP to 3.93 from 4.13. He was just a pitch to Freeman and Reid giving up the 6th-inning homer away from another shutout start. Instead, his scoreless streak ended at 22 innings and he could not get the victory.

Opposing starter Mike Minor was strong too, as only two of his four runs were earned and striking out six hitters in six innings. The Braves’ bullpen combined for four scoreless innings and allowed only one hit. In fact, the Pirates could only collect five hits all night. They have now averaged fewer than seven hits per game over the last week. It’s an arbitrary endpoint, but the offense needs to break out to support some of the very good pitching it is receiving.

In fairness, the Pirates’ bullpen was not at its league-leading best. First there was Reid allowing the game-tying home run. Then in the 8th, Tony Watson walked the bases loaded (though one was intentional) and only escaped by getting Andrelton Simmons to ground out. Jason Grilli gave up a single to Justin Upton with one out in the 9th. Next batter Freddie Freeman ripped a fastball down the middle very, very far, but McCutchen was there on the warning track to make the catch. Exhale once. After walking Brian McCann, Grilli struck out Ramiro Pena to send it to extras.

Despite ROOT Sports showing footage from the 19-inning Jerry Meals game, this contest would only go 10. Mark Melancon was the victim of some bad ball calls in allowing a leadoff walk. Look here at pitches 1 and 4:

After striking out B.J. Upton, pinch-hitter Reed Johnson crowded the plate and drew a hit by pitch. More bad luck for Melancon. Simmons ended it with a long double over the drawn-in Travis Snider, his third hit of the evening, and now the Pirates have lost four of their last five games. The team’s run differential and other factors show that some regression from being 12 games over .500 was due, and losing a one-run game like Tuesday’s exemplifies it. The offense needs to string some hits together to prevent an Atlanta sweep.

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James Santelli

James covers the Pirates beat for Pirates Prospects. He is a Broadcast Journalism student at USC and has written for such outlets as, Pittsburgh Magazine and the official websites of the Los Angeles Clippers and Pittsburgh Penguins. James previously covered the Pirates for Pittsburgh Sports Report. He also broadcasts play-by-play for the USC Trojans baseball team and was awarded the 2013 Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship and Allan Malamud Scholarship. James dispenses puns at his Twitter account (@JamesSantelli) where he promises to write in first-person. Google

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  • Lee Pingree

    The way Jeff Locke commands the inside of the plate reminds me of Cliff Lee.


  • westonian420

    I was a little disappointed in Marte tonight. He showed little to no effort on a couple balls hit his way. Reminded me of tabata last year

  • Bryan Graham

    I just don’t see the offense getting much better, sure they will have spurts of good hitting, but overall they are a bottom third of the league team offensively. The pitching better not regress much at all or I could see it getting very ugly again at some point this season. Guess that’s why I never understood the “Pedro’s average doesn’t matter” talk. If he could hit .250 or .260 just think how good his numbers would be, but as it is he’s not somebody you can count on. I just think the Bucs are a year or two away yet, I like Cutch, Marte, Snider, Mercer, and Walker, but 3 of these guys are bascially rookies and are going to be inconsistent. It will never happen, but I think we need to be trying to get a kings ranson for Grilli when the trade deadline approaches.

  • Jack Reddick

    Showing signs of a early collapse!

  • Bob Martin

    The Pirates offense is 1 key player away with an injury from total collaspe. The pitching will regress at some point and they don’t command or have great knowledge of the strike zone to overcome that.

    • smurph

      That one key player would be McCutchen. Every other player on the team (possible exception being Martin) are replaceable. I would have added Marte to the list a month ago, but he has come back to earth. The way Tony Sanchez is hitting, he might even be an upgrade to Martin. Otherwise they have players in the minors to replace any single player on their roster, including starting pitchers.

  • David Lewis

    Eh, the calls on Melancon weren’t as bad as Gameday makes them appear. If you look at the strike zone plots on Brooks Baseball, the first pitch was within an inch of the indicated top of the strike zone, and the fourth pitch straddled the indicated bottom of the strike zone. PitchFX is only accurate to within an inch, and the vertical strike zone dimensions are notoriously inaccurate. Those pitches could have gone either way – bad luck but not egregious.

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