Josh Bell, Offense Fail to Ignite as Marlins Sweep Pirates

PITTSBURGH – Despite what manager Clint Hurdle called “a very blue collar effort” from starter Ryan Vogelsong, a lack of offense from the Pirates helped the Miami Marlins complete their weekend sweep this afternoon at PNC Park.

Making his first appearance in the starting lineup, Josh Bell went 1-for-3 with a sacrifice fly that scored the Pirates’ second run after grounding out to second base in his first at-bat. His single to left field in the sixth inning quickly became an out at second base when he was caught trying to stretch the base hit into a double.

Bell was asked if he was looking to first base coach Nick Leyva for help on that play.

“[Leyva] was pointing; we were on the same page there,” Bell said. “At that point in the game, it’s going to take a perfect throw, and [Yelich] made it.”

Hurdle had no qualms with Bell’s aggressiveness. “With two outs, I think you push it right there, and if you’re out, you’re out,” he said after the game.

Unfortunately, Bell’s attempt to advance with two outs ended the Pirates’ sixth inning, but with the bottom of the order coming up, it seems all parties were on board with challenging the Marlins’ defense for the extra base in that moment.

To conclude his day at the plate, Bell struck out looking against Marlins’ closer Fernando Rodney with one out and no one on base in the ninth inning.

“You know, he definitely froze me,” Bell said. “I looked at it in the camera room, 98 on the corner. It’s one of those where I wish I’d pulled the trigger, fouled it off, to give myself another chance, but better luck next time.”

Uneventful Day at First Base

Other than attempting to handle two errant throws, one by Vogelsong and another by shortstop Sean Rodriguez, Bell had what Hurdle alliteratively called a “very vanilla” day on defense.

“He came off the base one time to grab the throw that was off target from Rodriguez, but that was about it,” said Hurdle. Bell also fielded a slow ground ball to easily retire Martin Prado for an unassisted putout in the eighth inning.

Bell also showed a different look when attempting to hold Dee Gordon on first base in the fifth inning. Instead of keeping a foot on the bag and waiting for a pickoff throw, Bell would stand off first base close to Gordon and fake back toward the bag as if a throw was coming.

The Pirates have recently used this same tactic against Billy Hamilton, who stole five bases—four in one game—in their series against Cincinnati at PNC Park two weekends ago.

“We didn’t think it would be too complicated for him to go ahead and put it in play today,” Hurdle said. “There’s a handful of baserunners we’re using it for, and I don’t think it’s anything too complicated for him to handle.”

Bell confirmed after the game that he had not yet tried this look prior to coming back to Pittsburgh, but Hurdle and the coaching staff gave him an opportunity to test it out.

“That was my first time trying to tinker with that,” Bell said, “being off the bag a little bit and give him that stutter step, to hopefully get his weight going back toward first [base].”

Gordon would end up stealing second base, then advancing to third on a groundout before scoring on a wild pitch to give the Marlins the 3-2 lead that they would not relinquish.

Offense Stays Silent

The Pirates mustered only five hits and two walks, and the troubles began at the top of the lineup, with Josh Harrison and Starling Marte both going 0-for-4 and failing to reach base this afternoon. Marte also failed to reach base in his four plate appearances during last night’s game.

Andrew McCutchen (two singles) and Eric Fryer (walk, reached on error) were the only hitters to see the base paths more than once. The two hits today were the first for McCutchen in this series after going 0-for-8 in the previous two games.

Third baseman David Freese was 0-for-3 this afternoon, after striking out in each of his four plate appearances last night. He did manage to reach base on a fielding error by Marlins’ third baseman Martin Prado in the fourth inning, but finished 1-for-11 in the series after hitting a home run in Friday’s game.

Other Notes

  • Starter Ryan Vogelsong allowed the Marlins’ three runs (one earned), lowering his season ERA to 2.98, but his 3.80 FIP (3.99 xFIP) as a starter entering today’s game indicate that he might be poised to regress slightly over the final six weeks.
  • After his first poor outing as a Pirate on Friday, reliever Felipe Rivero came on to pitch his way out of a bases-loaded jam with one out in the eighth inning, getting a ground ball to second and a swinging strikeout.
  • Jameson Taillon will take the mound as the Pirates begin a three-game series with the Houston Astros tomorrow night. This will be the final interleague series of the season for the Pirates.

  • 1-6 against a Marlins team on the ropes! Ouch! The perfect remedy: Pittsburgh! And I thought the Steelers were the only team in this city that played down to another teams level!…..not!

  • Didn’t have an issue with Bell going….but his slide was pretty bad. He most certainly should’ve slid to the outside of the bag and grabbed it with his hand given where the fielder was obviously receiving the ball. He’ll learn.

  • The Nutting is cheap and NH is an idiot doom and gloomers are going to be screaming from the roof tops today!

  • Guess we’ll find out what this team is made of now. Team needs Taillon to pitch a gem tonight. The way the bats are being swung, anything short of a gem may not be sufficient.

  • Being swept at home by the Stantonless Marlins is pathetic- and they didn’t even have to face Fernandez. Friday night’s loss set the tone for the series. Crushing.

    • It’s very disappointing, but certainly not “crushing.” 2 games back in loss column with 41 games remaining is not exactly a huge deficit.

      • You’re right, it isn’t a huge defecit. But the Bucs had a chance to at least create a little separation between themselves and the Fish and they blew it. Miami wanted it more. A truly pathetic display by the Pirates.

        • Scott Kliesen
          August 22, 2016 12:25 pm

          I think you’re blowing it out of proportion Mike. All 3 games were close battles. They employ professionals, too. Sometimes the other guys get the big hit, or take advantage of a mistake. Pirates did the same thing to Giants last week. It’s just baseball.

          How they respond vs Astros will show us a lot.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    August 21, 2016 11:21 pm

    Just a pathetic 3 game home sweep at the hands of the Marlins. Other than Cole, the starting pitching was good enough – but the hitting, base-running, and defense were atrocious. This team is still not very fundamentally sound, which is inexcusable. Kind of sums up the entire season.
    The Astros are a much more capable team and they are just coming off taking 3 out of 4 from the Orioles in Baltimore.

  • This site obsesses over fip and xfip to an extreme…I guess QS’s and ERA are moot, which are true indicators of a pitcher.

  • I like the Willie Stargell move – wait until you see where the guy wants to be on his lead, then go stand there. There’s nothing they can do about it, the rules say the baserunners can’t interfere with the fielders.

  • Pirates performing like a yo-yo on a string. Big steps forward on the West Coast trip, then dismal results in a series they needed. I think the handwriting is on the wall here, they are not making even the second WC. Note to NH: you cannot start the season without a reasonable rotation, put together a staff on 1 August, and hope to compete. Note 2 to NH: do you think the Cubs, Marlins, Mets, Cards, Nats, etc. plan on getting weaker or trading away top prospects to dump salary in the future? Maybe think about constructing the team differently in the future. Are we going to wait next year until Super 2 and the season is again blown to bring up Hanson, Diaz, Bell and Glasnow. “Assets under control” are only worth something if you actually use them. A Ferrari in the garage goes how fast? Maybe Financial Flexibility can play 3rd next year when Freese walks to greener pastures! Heard FF can rival Mike Schmidt with the bat!

    • I agree, this weekend pretty much put the final nail in the coffin. This season was lost before this season started, but this team’s recent play against Milwaukee, Atlanta and Miami, pretty much ended our season. Sad, when you consider how well they played on their West Coast trip. But that’s been the story all season long.

      Hopefully we have a much better offseason and are ready to field a much better team in 2017.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        August 21, 2016 11:24 pm

        This team loses far to many games to teams it should be able to beat – Reds, Brewers, Marlins, Padres, etc.

        • You are putting the Marlins on the same level as those other teams you mentioned ??? You are looking at a different team than I am. The are every bit as talented as the Pirates, and more consistent offensively.

      • I don’t think the season was lost before it started. We had every opportunity to beat Miami, and we didn’t. I do acknowledge the front office dug a hole without providing a good bridge starter. But the team on the field has to be able to beat Miami; on paper, it’s more than capable; they just wanted it more than us. Miami deserves kudos. They are playing for the playoffs and we are playong for next year…

    • I totally agree with NH not addressing the rotation, but the guys we traded were extremely overrated…Lets see what Hutchison can do before we make final judgement.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        August 21, 2016 11:22 pm

        Really? We are hitching our hopes to Hutchison?

        • Yeah right, Hutchison is the savior of the franchise, for sure. Bob Gibson reincarnated. Woops, I meant that household name, Financial Flexibility (F2 to honour this site). Sorry but if NH tries to persuade anyone the Liriano to the Jays was anything but an outright salary dump, I an’t buying.

          • It’s a shame Liriano couldn’t put up his Blue Jay numbers with the Pirates. FWIW, trading Liriano to me was okay, but I thought the Bucs gave up too much. Let’s see where the salary dump winds up.

            • None of the trades have impacted this Pirates team in a negative manner. Look at the players still here and figure out why we cannot seem to be professional enough to recognize and take advantage of the opportunity that was presented this weekend.

              It is unfair that the Pirates have to face any pitchers who can throw breaking pitches and/or off-speed pitches for strikes. And an aside to Root Sports – I thought that last pitch to Bell had run outside, but the announcers were too busy talking it to death to show the box so we could see where the pitch was at.

              • No doubt the Marlins series was a complete disappointment. Time is running out for a team which more and more looks to finish around .500.

            • Which Liriano/Blue Jays numbers are you looking at ? He has had one terrible start, one fair, and one good start. Maybe a bit better than his Pirate starts this season, but nothing to write home about.

              • What I’m looking at is 6 IP/2 ER, 6 IP/0 ER, 5.2 IP/5 ER. 3.57 ERA, ERA+ 121, 3.1 BB/9 & 8.2 K/9. You seen different numbers?

          • Is there something bad about dumping a guy leading the majors in walks while being the highest paid pitcher on the staff? Liriano’s numbers were pretty atrocious across the board except K’s/9. WHIP of 1.619. Only managed 5.1 innings per start, -0.6 WAR. Maybe NH should be hailed as a hero for getting someone to take him and his salary off our hands. As for Hutchison, I think you have to look at the trade as two prospects both trending downward in exchange for Hutchison. I don’t think any of us will miss Tabata v2.0 or a catcher who hasn’t shown the slightest offensive ability. It isn’t like we gave up the second coming of Buster Posey. I don’t agree with everything NH does, and it sure does get old hearing about FF/F2 on a regular basis, but I just don’t see this as a really bad trade and not even in the same ballpark as the Aramis Ramirez salary dump.

        • When did I ever say we are hitching our hopes to Hutchison? You’re an idiot.

          • Haven’t you learned by now! It doesn’t take much to get negative Nancy started.

  • Still seems weird to call a series vs the Astros an ‘inter league’ series.

    • I do love that the Astros decided to become a very good team after leaving the NL central though.

  • Blockhead base running now must be being taught in the minors. Glad it wasn’t enough to get Bell demoted.

    • Bell getting gunned at second on a bang bang play with 2 outs isn’t really dumb. He almost got there and it would have put him in scoring position. If he gets there a split second earlier it is a smart hustle play. Have you seen this team hit in situations? They need to take every extra base they can because I feel like they hit about .100 with risp this past week.

      • Situational Hitting was a problem recognized by the Pirates going into last off-season. It will be recognized as a problem again after 2016. Doing the same things the same way and expecting different results?

    • You send Bell to 2nd on that play exactly 100 times out of 100…that is the right call. Make them make the play with 2 outs. Now if there were no outs, he stays at first.