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.
- 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.