If last night was a defensive struggle that led to the Pirates demise tonight it was the offense (to an extent) and some terrible managing by Clint Hurdle that had the Pirates drop the second straight game to the Phillies. I hate Philadelphia.
It was really the same story as the Phillies got a 4-1 lead through three innings off Erik Bedard but unlike last night when Jeff Karstens just crumbled Bedard was able to get through six innings of work and only give up those four runs and really put the Pirates in a good place to win the ballgame. The good part was that Michael McKenry got the Pirates fourth run with a homer in the top of the ninth inning. The bad was that the Phillies were able to get a run off Juan Cruz in the eighth inning to make that home run a moot point.
The Pirates had their chances in this game but just couldn't get it done. They made a habit of leaving a ton of runners in scoring positions as they went 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position which included not getting a single run after newly added Drew Sutton doubled home a run to make the game 4-3 which set up runners on second and third with no outs in the seventh inning. The Pirates had runners on second and third with no outs and down one and wasn't able to get a single run in after Sutton doubled home Clint Barmes.
The way that inning ended was the first real big head scratcher. Neil Walker came up with one out and lifted a relatively shallow pop fly to left field and McKenry thought he was going to be able to make it. I am not sure if third base coach Nick Leyva sent him or McKenry went on his own the ball beat him by four feet to home plate. All of this with Andrew McCutchen on deck. Now, if McKenry doesn't go they would have just probably walked McCutchen with the base opened at first and had to deal with Garrett Jones or a bench player but that might have been the better play. I don't really think it was the worst decision to send McKenry to go but he had really no chance.
The other just brutal time of the game was in the eighth inning when McCutchen doubled, for the second time, to lead off the inning and then was left stranded at second base after some just brutal hitting and managing. Interestingly enough a lefty was brought in to start the inning and after the Cutch double Garrett Jones was pinch hit for and Josh Harrison came to the plate. The first pitch was offered at via a bunt and popped up behind the plate. First out.
I have no idea when anyone is going to ask why Hurdle is just making brutally bad decisions in terms of bunting and this was one of them. There were no outs in the inning and the winning run was already in scoring position. Getting to third isn't that big of a deal because of what kind of speed McCutchen has. It is just mind blowing that Hurdle has to answer to nobody when he runs this team out of games.
By no means was that bunt the end all be all to the game because the next batter, Casey McGehee, popped out to first base and then Pedro Alvarez struck out. The Pirates did make it semi interesting in the ninth inning but the poor play in the previous eight with runners in scoring position was really more important. Just brutal.
There were a few good things that happened which was led by McKenry. While I don't think McKenry is even a good backup option for the Pirates he came in and went 3-for-3 with a home run, a pair of RBI and a run scored. McCutchen was the only other Pirate who had more than one hit as he stroked a pair of doubles to continue his hot play but there wasn't much else going on. Jose Tabata gets a lot of heat and went 0-for-4 but just as bad tonight was Neil Walker who went 0-for-3 and is in the midst of a 3-for-26 slump but nobody will talk about that because he is the "hometown kid."
Bedard wasn't good tonight but he wasn't terrible either. Four runs in six innings isn't ideal but things could have been much worse. He hasn't been that great in the last eight starts or so. He has given up four or more earned runs in five of his last eight starts and he has failed to even go four innings in two of his last five. While he hasn't been terrible he hasn't been as good as he was earlier in the season. His xFIP is around 4.00 right now and he is starting to pitch more to that now which might be his regression to the mean. Hopefully he can bounce back and start pitching better going forward as he will need to be up there with James McDonald and A.J. Burnett to hold this staff together.
Sure, I am pretty frustrated about the game because it is one the Pirates should have won but in the grand scheme of things it is just one loss of 162 and the Pirates are still only three games back of the division and it is almost July. They have McDonald and Burnett going in the next two games so if they can get a split here everything is gravy. People talk about building a wall around a group of games or a time period and these first two games of the series is the kind of games you build the wall around.
On to the next one...