Here’s my bullet-point recap of last night’s game:
- We learned that MLB did not at all consider force plays when writing the new plate-blocking rules this winter, and basically just made up a ruling on the spot that cost the Pirates an out and extended an already brutal third inning.
- It probably didn’t matter, because Edinson Volquez and Stolmy Pimentel were really bad last night (UPDATE: I guess Pimentel wasn’t all that bad; I was mostly judging him on the third inning, when he had a lot of trouble getting out of Volquez’s mess after the play at the plate. He was fairly strong after that, though, so saying he was really bad is unfair. For my part, I just didn’t watch between that third inning and when Snider came on to pitch, so obviously I should’ve looked at the box score a little more closely.).
- Gregory Polanco got two more hits.
- Travis Snider pitched and did his best Justin Wilson impression by walking two hitters, giving up a two-run double, and striking out Joey Votto.
- No, really, Travis Snider struck out Joey Votto. I wonder if he was paying attention to that game where Jason Lane pitched for the Padres.
- Nope, don’t want to talk about the rest of it.
I’ll just keep repeating this ad nauseum: the bottom is dangerously close to falling out of this 2014 season for the Pirates. The bullpen can’t get anyone out, they look abysmal in the field (Russell Martin let a bunch of balls go to the backstop last night, Andrew McCutchen continues to confuse his arm with Yoenis Cespedes’s and make terrible throws to the wrong bases, and I could go on but I won’t), the rotation remains a ticking time bomb, and there’s only so much that the offense can cover.
And yet, after today’s game, the Pirates will embark on a six-game road trip to Chicago and Tampa Bay, then come home for ten games against the Mets, Diamondbacks, and Phillies. That right there is a bunch of baseball games against a bunch of meanderingly aimless baseball teams. If the Pirates can somehow shore themselves up for this 16-game stretch, it does seem plausible to come through it on the other side with Gerrit Cole and Neil Walker and a chance to still make something out of 2014. Honestly, that feels like a big if after the last few days, but then, the Pirates are only a few days removed from having won five of six against the Cubs and Marlins.
In any case, salvaging a game from the Reds at PNC Park and pulling back to within a half game of them should be the main priority, easy-looking schedule be damned. For a while now the biggest problem that the Pirates have faced isn’t the number of games between them and the wild card leaders, but the number of teams between them. Losing these first two games to the Reds has exacerbated this problem. Jeff Locke starts today and his last two starts have been really excellent without much to show for it. In those two starts, he’s pitched 15 innings, struck out 12, walked one, allowed 10 hits, allowed one homer (and it was to Giancarlo Stanton), and held the Brewers and Marlins to three runs. The Pirates lost that first start 1-0, and the second start was Bullpen Disaster Mark 1 on Friday night, which robbed Locke of his well-deserved win. In these two starts, he’s been throwing a really excellent-looking changeup that I don’t remember him having in the past and his control has looked better than it ever has, so I’m cautiously optimistic that he’s making some strides this year. The Pirates could really, really use a reliable Jeff Locke in the rotation (and this would’ve been true even before injuries hit Cole and Liriano), so seeing him continue his hot streak today would be a positive development for a team desperately in need of some positive developments.
Homer Bailey pitches for the Reds. Homer Bailey has made approximately 11,000 starts against the Pirates. By my count, the Pirates have won seven of the last eight games Bailey has started against them. In the other game, he threw a no-hitter.
First pitch today is at 12:35. We’re back to baby steps. Forget about the next 16. Win today first.