There are a number of ways to interpret this 3-1 loss to the Padres that the Pirates just suffered tonight. One is that they played a 19-inning game that ended 26 hours before and 1,800 miles away from the first pitch of this game; of course they looked lethargic, of course they got off to a slow start, of course the bats never quite got going. If you want some honesty, the Pirates didn’t collapse after the Jerry Meals game in 2011 because they were heart-broken after a tough loss; they collapsed because their pitching was an absolute mirage and the 19-inning game helped exacerbate and expose that. Those sorts of games are tough to immediately rebound from, win or lose.
And still here we are in a situation where all of the games matter and the Pirates can’t afford to shrug away losses with, “Welp, we won a big one yesterday.” The Pirates have to come out with their best foot forward every single night and they lost this game tonight throwing their weakest starting pitching on the shortest rest possible. Kevin Correia showed some real guts volunteering to start this game tonight after throwing two bullpen innings last night, but that didn’t make him the best option. He came out tonight and gave the Padres a 2-0 lead (with some help from Rod Barajas) in the first and he gave up a third run in the second and the Pirates never bounced back from that. Giving up two earned runs in 4 1/3 innings on the rest he had tonight was absolutely a gutty performance and it’s hard to blame him for the Pirates’ loss, but Kyle McPherson and Justin Wilson came in and threw three innings of scoreless relief after him, giving up three hits and striking out five. Before the game I thought that either McPherson or Wilson would make a strong spot-starter based on their ability to get swings and misses, coupled with Petco and the chances that the Padres wouldn’t have much of a book on either of them. I still think that would’ve been the right choice tonight. That’s not based on Correia being bad, just on him not being at his best in this game, when the Pirates needed more than that to have a chance to win.
And still, Correia and Tony Watson and McPherson and Wilson combined to hold the Padres to just three runs. Holding an opponent to three runs in nine innings one day after holding another team to three in 19 is pretty good. The Pirate offense struck out 13 times in this game, with Travis Snider and Andrew McCutchen wearing seven of those strikeouts. When that happens, it’s hard to pin anything on a pitcher or a manager’s decision about starting pitching.
Coming into this series, it seemed like it would’ve been a good result for the Pirates to get two of three from the Padres. That’s still possible, it’s just that it feels like one got away tonight.