For the second time this year, things with the Pirates’ bullpen have hit a critical mass. After Brandon Cumpton gutted his way through six three-run innings and kept the Pirates in the game through Johnny Cueto’s six innings, Justin Wilson came in and immediately served up two runs to extend the Reds’ lead to 5-2. The Pirates rallied for three runs to tie it in the bottom of the seventh, but then Jason Grilli threw Todd Frazier a meatball that Frazier banged off of the batter’s eye for the game-winning home run.
If you’re keeping track at home, that was four runs in five innings for the bullpen on Friday, followed by four runs in two innings on Saturday, then three runs in three innings on Sunday, and now three runs in three innings tonight. That’s 14 total runs allowed by the bullpen over their last 13 innings, which looks even worse if you remove Jeanmar Gomez’s excellent four-inning long-relief stint to close out Friday’s game. It’s a borderline miracle that the Pirates have even managed to win two of these last four games, which sounds crazy because they’ve scored 23 runs in them.
Of course, the rest of the team was not without problems of their own. The Pirates got thrown out on the bases a ton tonight (the sixth inning, in which Josh Harrison tried to go from second to third on a ground ball to the shortstop, then Jose Tabata tried to steal second base with Gregory Polanco at the plate, was particularly infuriating), Pedro Alvarez made yet another throwing error, and despite scoring five runs the Pirates still left 13 runners on base.
I’m aware of how good the offense has been lately. I’m aware that they could theoretically be even better when Neil Walker comes back and if Pedro Alvarez ever starts hitting the ball over the fence on a regular basis again. Still, it’s really hard to watch these last four games and come away from them feeling like this is a Pirate squad destined for good things.
That being said, the good news is that Brandon Cumpton continued the streak of the Pirates’ patchwork rotation giving the team a chance to win. If only the rest of the club were able to capitalize.