PITTSBURGH — The Pirates had a bad month in August of 2011. They went 8-22 as a once-promising season slipped away. That same month, relief pitcher Tony Watson had a rough stretch, giving up eight runs over three innings between Aug 22 and 29.

That stood as the worst three-game stretch of Watson’s career until Sunday, when the lefty gave up a two-run home run to Los Angeles first baseman Albert Pujols in a 5-4 loss to the Angels.

In total, Watson has allowed seven runs on seven hits and a walk over his last 2.1 innings. It’s been a precipitous decline in outcomes for a pitcher that gave up just 17 runs in all of 2015.

Watson typically features outstanding command. In his last three complete seasons, he has given up 17, 15, and 12 walks, respectively. His 2016 total of 10 free passes points to an obvious change, and more recently, Watson’s opponents have been capitalizing.

“There’s definitely times where you get away with mistakes, but if you keep doing it over and over, it’s not going to end up well for you,” Watson explained. “To keep doing it over and over, its frustrating, but that’s what’s going on right now.”

Against Adieny Hechavarria in Miami last week, Francisco Cervelli’s target started just above the knees of the Marlins’s shortstop. By the time Watson’s 93 MPH fastball reached the plate, Cervelli was reaching above Hechavarria’s belt.

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Against Yunel Esobar on Saturday, Chris Stewart was looking low and inside, but Watson’s fastball again missed it’s marking, sailing high and outside before being belted to the warning track in center field.

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On Sunday against Pujols, Stewart again set up low and in, but Watson’s 94 MPH offering ended up right at Pujols’ letters, and then ended up in the left-field seats.

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“Up and in fastball,” Watson correctly analyzed of his misplaced pitch. “He’s been around for a long time. He had one thing on his mind right there, to give his team the lead. Needs to be better execution.”

Watson didn’t have any quick-and-easy answers for what’s causing his sudden lack of command.

“Nothing’s different,” Watson insisted. “The only thing different is the location of the pitches. I’m just finding a lot of barrels right now, and it’s frustrating, but you know, as a reliever, you’ve just got to show up tomorrow. You might be out there again.”


• Gerrit Cole gave up three runs on six hits in 6.2 innings. He gave up a lead-off single to Escobar and Pujols drove him in with a sacrifice fly in the first inning, but then gave up just one hit in the next five frames.

He ran into trouble in seventh, giving up two runs on back-to-back RBI doubles by C.J. Cron and Gregorio Petit. Neftali Feliz relieved him to get the final out of the inning. Jared Hughes pitched a scoreless ninth.

• The Pirates loaded the bases on Huston Street in the ninth inning, but Sean Rodriguez grounded into a game-ending double play. It was the second time Rodriguez had come up short with a runner in scoring position. In the fifth inning, he came up with Jung Ho Kang on third base and one out, but grounded out to third base. Rodriguez finished 0 for 5 and is now 2 for 16 (.125) in the month of June.


• Jonathon Niese (5-2 4.36 ERA) will face his former club for the first time as the New York Mets come to PNC Park for a three-game series.

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  1. By the way: Both Fister and Latos (pitchers I called for us to sign about 45 times this offseason) are doing quite well. People that thought Fister was done, have been sadly mistaken. Even pitching in that bandbox he is doing better in his last 6 starts than any of our starting 5

    • Mat Latos is not “doing quite well.” Even his surface numbers aren’t great (4.01 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 1.48 BB/K), and when you start to get into his DIPS, well, yikes.

      Fister is also dramatically outperforming his peripherals, though to be honest I was in the crowd who thought he was straight up toast and I’m frankly amazed he’s even been able to put together this season so far. But neither one would really have been a substantial upgrade over what the Pirates have actually been trotting out there, and certainly not a big enough upgrade to have made a significant difference in the standings thus far.

      • incorrect. Results are what matters, and if you think Fister would be pitching WORSE with the Pirates pitching half of his games at PNC vs. minutemaid, you are smoking something lol 🙂 And yes, Latos IS pitching better than our team because our peripherals are even WORSE. It was mostly a joke mind you, either of them however would have been far better than Vogelsong or Nicasio (due to the lack of innings he provides leading to more stress on the bullpen) which is really the only thing that matters.

      • I apologize- I did what I hate in that last comment- Those are just my thoughts, not facts so please take them as an opinion, I make no assertions that my “opinion” is right

  2. anybody hear if Watson’s new baby is doing ok? I believe he was just on paternity leave recently – maybe he has some other things on his mind – hope everything is ok….its not his velocity or anything, its his execution which tends to err towards concentration

    • Lack of sleep can really affect performance. Our oldest daughter had “colic” and we were sleep deprived for months. Tony may magically get better when we go on the road.

  3. Clint showed very poor judgment in putting Watson out there yesterday, given the fact that he bombed the night before….he just made a bad situation worse, by losing the game and having Watson deal with back-to-back games of poor performances…it made little sense.

  4. It’s way too easy to pinpoint Tony Watson or others from the BP, but it is more of a team effort – SP’s, BP, and the lineup all contributing – The pitchers are more obvious, but here are the slash lines from 6 position starters in their last 7 games –

    Jaso – .118/.250/.118/.368 OPS
    ‘Cutch – .192/.276/.231/.507 OPS
    Cervelli – .190/.320.190/.510 OPS
    Harrison – .290/.313/.323/.636 OPS
    Mercer – .130/.310/.217/.527 OPS
    Rodriguez – .167/.167/.375/.542 OPS

    I only picked those under a .700 OPS. Harrison probably does not belong because he has a .290 batting average for those 7 games, but without Walks or any power, the OPS is very low average. Guys like Gregory Polanco, Jung Ho Kang, Starling Marte, and David Freese are all over an .800 OPS. Srod was not a starter, but he seems to make it into the lineup just about every day.

  5. I’m wondering whether Watson and Hughes are struggling or are just worn out from overuse over the years…

    I kinda sorta thought losing Melancon at the end of the season wasn’t going to be a big deal. His FIP has been climbing in every season with Pirates…and the trend continues this year…

    With the way Watson and Hughes have been pitching…ugh…it appears the entire back half of the “best bullpen in baseball” might end up being absent or ineffective next season.

    If that’s the case, I count Feliz and Nicasio as the most likely bullpen anchors for ’17?

    • I subscribe by the over use of the bullpen theory. It was enhanced this year when no starter went longer than six. The mantra was turn it over to the pen early and often. This staff needed two starters who ate innings. The GM miscalculated this strategy. Combine that with Hurdle and his chronic use of overworking arms you have this bad mix. It can be fixed but it will need new arms so Hurdle will overwork them again.

      • a good bullpen rarely can fix a bad rotation. Maybe the Royals can do it, but that’s quite rare and certainly didn’t stop them from paying a fortune for Cueto last year for the stretch run. Shows they didn’t think it was enough either.

      • According to baseball-reference.com, Feliz will have 5.151 years of service at the end of the season. If their numbers are accurate, that puts him about three weeks shy of free agency.

        Not positive their numbers are right though.

    • hughes is fine- its just a command thing from him, and he needs to work it out. Keep in mind Hughes has ALWAYS pitched better when being thrown into the fire, not as well with his own clean inning.

    • Well Watson didn’t really “struggle” last night. He gave up a homerun on a 94 MPH fastball that was literally at Pujols neck. When someone hits that out, you just tip your cap and say “see ya in the Hall”

  6. That picture of Watson makes him look like he is throwing like a girl. No wonder he is getting hammered lately

    • I noticed the picture too. Except my thought was “no wonder pitchers are queueing up for Tommy John surgery.”

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