Sometimes one inning loses you the ballgame. Tonight the top of the first inning lost the Pirates the ballgame. The Pirates are struggling in a big way right now and have lost five straight games and if they don't start figuring things out quick they are going to be out of the playoff race in mid-September after leading the Wild Card race by 1.5 like four days ago.
Vance Worley has been really good for the Pirates this year. Unfortunately in the first inning tonight he gave up six runs (five earned) on five hits and two walks. The Braves sent 10 batters to the plate and started off the game with back-to-back home runs from Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons and it went downhill from there. Worley actually came back strong after throwing more than 30 pitches in the first and actually worked through six innings giving up no more runs and only four more hits in the next five innings. The problem is you can't erase the first inning and that is what did the Pirates in.
The Pirates actually did a nice job of chipping away. After coming up empty in the first inning they had home runs in each of the next three innings to cut the lead in half. Granted all the home runs were solo shots so it really didn't help as much as it could but down three runs going into the fifth inning and you felt pretty good about the chances of them having a chance. The Pirates had base runners all over the place but just couldn't get that second big hit they needed to tack on more runs.
They had a chance to really make it a game in the sixth inning when Starling Marte and Travis Snider started off the inning with back-to-back doubles to put runners on second and third with nobody out (Marte had to hold at second to make sure the ball wasn't caught on Sniders double, thus he couldn't score). The problem was that Brent Morel struck out and then pinch hitter Ike Davis hit a rocket that was caught and Snider was doubled off second. It was 6-3 at the time and scoring those two runs would have made it a one run game going into the seventh inning. The Pirates didn't score and that really took the air out of comeback.
The Braves hit the ball all over the field today. It wasn't just against Worley but they had 15 hits and took advantage of two Pirates errors. You are going to win a lot of games with lines like that and while the Pirates responded well after the first it just wasn't good enough.
Marte was a man possessed tonight. He ended the night 3-for-4 with a pair of home runs and a double and even the flyout he hit went to the track. He has been locked in since coming off the DL and is 20-for-57 with six doubles, two triples, and three home runs. With McCutchen out it was important for some other guys to step up and Marte has done that. He is hitting the ball hard pretty much every at bat when with Cutch possibly coming back tomorrow that bodes well for the offense.
On the same note, kind of, Gregory Polanco is in some kind of slump. He went 0-for-5 tonight and now has only one hit in his last 26 at bats. With Cutch getting back into the lineup that bodes the question on what to do with Snider. Now I don't think that I want Snider to play over Polanco but the question has to be brought up since Snider is 25-for-76 since the All-Star Break and has six home runs and five doubles in that span. Polanco has been really streaky since his call-up and if he's in the lineup I think he will be fine but Snider is making a really good case to get more playing time in that crowded outfield.