Jordy Mercer Pittsburgh Pirates

Pirates Collect Only Three Hits to Lose Fourth-Straight Game

Pedro Alvarez Pirates

Pedro Alvarez’s 23rd home run was the Pirates’ only extra-base hit. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

The Pirates lost 2-1 Tuesday night to the Oakland Athletics to drop their fourth-straight game and third-straight series loss. This fact is significant.

Over these three July series, Pittsburgh’s offense has averaged a below-average 8.4 hits and 2.9 runs per game. This fact is more significant.

In the 2013 season, the offense has averaged 8.2 hits and 3.9 runs per game, both 12th in the 15-team National League. This fact is most significant.

As poorly as the Pirates’ hitters have played since the team passed the halfway point with baseball’s best record, the empty production should be no surprise. The team that has given up the fewest runs in baseball has at the same time run out an offense that is the NL’s 11th-best in OPS.

That’s in the macro. In the micro, Gerrit Cole pitched seven efficient innings Tuesday night while his lineup floundered to only three hits the entire night. One of those was Pedro Alvarez smacking a solo home run over PNC Park’s center-field bushes for his 23rd home run, second in the NL. Other than that, only one Pirates player got past first base, and Starling Marte was at second for all of one batter.

Credit, as baseball continues to be played by two teams, must go to Dan Straily and the Athletics’ pitchers. The AL’s top-performing staff got seven strikeouts from the young Straily, who gave up just two hits and struck out seven. Closer Grant Balfour gave up the potential tying run with Jose Tabata’s leadoff single in the 9th, but flummoxed Andrew McCutchen and Alvarez with K’s to earn his 24th save.

Pirates starter Cole’s lone sin was imperfection. The rookie pitcher hung a changeup down the middle for Brandon Moss to smack over the right-field fence for his 16th homer, Oakland’s only two runs, leaving Pirates fans with visions of what the shoulda-been power hitter might have done in black and gold.

Gerrit Cole Pirates

Gerrit Cole has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his six MLB starts. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

“Not where I wanted it,” Cole said with little more to add to the answer.

The Pirates’ best pitching talent escaped a walk and pair of singles unscathed in the first inning by striking out John Jaso with a changeup. He then retired 10 straight batters before Moss’ home run, and with the help of two double plays did not let another Athletics player past first base. Cole looks at the bright side of pitching with little run support.

“I think it’s fun. You want the best out of the other team. Any competitive person will say that,” Cole said. “You look up three innings later and go ‘Wow, I’m here already?’ That’s when you know you’ve slowed the game down.”

His longest MLB outing of seven innings adds another few paragraphs to Cole’s ongoing development story. After sitting through a 100-minute rain delay with practically no rain, Pirates manager Clint Hurdle watched his 99-mph-throwing phenom allow just five hits and strike out four in what he called a “very, very good” start.

“The strikeouts will pick up as he pitches,” Hurdle said. “He can go to certain spots.”

For the 23rd time in 24 games, the Pirates saw their starting pitcher allow three earned runs or fewer. However, the team has a record of 14-10 over that span. Baseball’s best run-prevention team is still comfortably in a playoff spot, but no longer with baseball’s best record.

“We’re doing all the work. We’re not getting the results,” Hurdle said. “When you don’t score runs, everything is magnified.”

The magnifying glass is aimed above the Pirates offense, and rightly so. Losing your last three one-run games is merely regression for a team that was so lucky in such contests (16-10 to start the season). Run production is an equal part of the game, though.

Right now, all the Pirates’ offense is producing is below-average results. This team could use a significant upgrade.

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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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  • Nickmid13

    I’m not pushing any panic buttons, but the Pirates hitters need to simplify their approach, and hit the ball where it’s pitched. Too many are trying to pull and hit the ball 500 feet. To take that a step further, a ball that lands over the fence with a distance of 380 feet equals the same amount of runs of a ball that traveled 500 feet.
    When teams are shifting, I don’t understand why they don’t hit the ball in the hole created by the shift. Are they afraid of only getting a single or double? I refuse to believe a major leaguer lacks the bat control to do this.
    It’s not fair to only pick out McCutchen because he is batting .300, but he needs to review the tapes of that ridiculous streak he went on last year. His bombs were going to right center. It seems he is trying to pull way too many outside pitches.
    James, I don’t know if this is possible, but is it possible to retrieve data of where a ball was hit on a certain type of pitch? So to continue with the theme of my post, when there’s a pitch (preferably a FB) on the outer half, where is the ball put into play, if at all? Admittedly, I haven’t seen all the games because of travel, but I would love to see the stats. Keep up the good work!

  • whiteAngus

    The offense was an issue when the season started so why is this a surprise? A significant upgrade will cost the Bucs a good chunk of talent so why take that chance? We have streaky low OBP hitters and most are slumping right now. Chances are they will snap out of the funk. As long as the pitching and defense stay strong we will always have a chance to win.
    Of course an upgrade would be nice. But teams occasionally slump even with better players. Just look at the Reds.

  • IC Bob

    I really don’t think a significant upgrade to our offense would cause us a chuck of talent. To many people screamed when we got Rodriquez from Houston and what has that trade netted Houston so far? Nothing. Guys like Rios are their for the taking for the taking and would cost 2 10-20 prospects. Someone like Ibanez would probably cost one. Dodgers gave up nothing for Nolasco. If the bucs want to be taken seriously then we are going to have to upgrade the Major League roster. Right now we have to many platoon players or defensive whiz’s. If we have to give up a Barrett Barnes, Dickerson. Sadler, Crumpton to get a proven hitter then thats a small price to pay when you have already got players in the system who have passed these guys or are going to pass these guys. Its time to stop attempting to find a player who has a cost of $500Gs but a value of 1 Million instead of finding a player who has 12 million cost but a 11 Million in value. Come next year each team will receive an additional 20-25 million from TV contracts so the Pirates have plenty of room to add a big salary guy for this year and next (heck we can add two or three next year).

    • JRIcentral

      Absolutely IC!

      We need an Offensive player like Ibanez or Rios that can hit when it matters, and the cost in prospects won’t be much, if we’re talking on their salary (and we should!)!

      • JRIcentral

        Add Hunter Pence to the list, now that the Giants are sliping quickly…

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