In the fifth inning last night, this game was a joke. Yusmiero Petit was terrible for the Giants from the start, and then they relieved him with Jake Dunning. Dunning is the guy that was just called up to take the place of Matt Cain and his minor league numbers might as well spell “mop-up guy” out in huge letters. Dunning immediately threw two run-scoring wild pitches and only got out of the jam that he’d inherited on a weird sac fly double play where Tony Sanchez got thrown out at third on what was an otherwise routine sac fly by Clint Barmes. The Pirates were winning 8-2, the Giants had sent up a surrender flag, and literally everyone watching the game — Pirate fans, Giant fans, casual observers — was laughing about it because it was all so absurd.
By the next half-inning, the Pirates had coughed nearly the whole thing back up. Jeff Locke ran out of gas quickly (which was bound to happen since he’d pitched a few innings last Thursday in a short start before being lifted to be ready for Monday). It’d be easy to blame Clint Hurdle for letting him linger two batters too long, but given the performance of the bullpen it’s really hard to see how that would’ve turned out differently.
What was even more frustrating was that this wasn’t a game where the Pirates piled on a bunch of runs early, put the bats away, and saw the lead bleed away into a loss. The Pirates piled runs on, then kept scoring while the bullpen kept hemorrhaging the lead away. By the end of it all, the Giants had managed to remove Michael Morse and Buster Posey and had to turn to a chubby relief pitcher to lay down a sacrifice bunt and even then it only worked to score a run when Jared Hughes threw the ball away.
In any case, where I’m going with this is the following list of bullet points:
- On April 19th, the Pirates had an 86.7% win expectancy after Andrew McCutchen doubled in a run in the bottom of the sixth to give them a 7-5 lead against the Brewers. That WE got as high as 92.8% in the top of the ninth when the Pirates had a 7-6 lead with one out after Carlos Gomez made an out to start the inning. Shortly after, the Pirates lost the game on a Ryan Braun home run.
- On April 20th, the Pirates had an 88.4% WE after Jose Tabata’s go-ahead single in the top of the ninth inning. This again peaked at 92.8% in the bottom of the ninth before Braun’s second straight huge homer off of Jason Grilli and the Pirates eventually lost in 14.
- On May 1st, Ike Davis’s RBI single in the top of the sixth gave the Pirates a 4-0 lead and a (you guessed it) 92.8% win expectancy before Brandon Cumpton and Bryan Morris combined to give away the lead.
- Last night, the Pirates win expectancy peaked at 98.4% after Barmes’s sac fly in the bottom of the fifth and was at 86.9% in the top of the ninth inning, even after the shenanigans by Locke, Morris, Wilson, and Watson.
- Just for good measure, on April 21st, the Pirates had an 86.1% win expectancy against the Reds heading into the seventh inning with a 4-2 lead. They gave that lead up and eventually won on a Neil Walker single in the bottom of the ninth, but this game was just a hair’s breadth away from joining the other four on the list.
The tally here is that in the last 18 days the Pirates have lost four games in which they had a 92+% win expectancy and they’ve only won four games total in that span, two of which were gifts from the Blue Jays’ bullpen that ended on walkoff wins and one of which was a game where they gave up a big lead and managed to somehow hold on. In other words, the Pirates’ bullpen has been asked to hold six leads in the last 15 games and they’ve only managed to hold one of them.
This started off as Ryan-Braun-related-bad-luck, but it has devolved into a bullpen disaster so ugly that even Mike Williams, Brian Boehringer, and Joe Beimel can’t believe it’s happening.