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Saturday, December 3, 2022

Cole and Cervelli Leave With Injuries, Nicasio Struggles in Pirates Loss

PITTSBURGH — The already-taxed Pirates bullpen faced something of a nightmare scenario Friday when starting pitcher Gerrit Cole left the game due to injury in the top of the third inning. The bullpen picked him up, pitching nine innings of three-hit baseball before Juan Nicasio imploded with two outs in the 12th inning, leading to a 9-3 St. Louis Cardinals win.

“I hosed ‘em pretty good tonight,” Cole said, upset at letting down his teammates.

Cole’s injury consisted of tightness in his right triceps. It happened in between the second and third innings, and when he went back out to pitch the third, he threw five pitches before admitted that something “just wasn’t right.”

“The biggest thing was after I sat down after the second, going back out for the third, it wasn’t where it needed to be,” Cole added. “The second inning it was alright, it just didn’t respond after sitting down for a little bit.”

Cole batted in the bottom of the second, grounding out to his mound opponent, Michael Wacha, but he didn’t say that had anything to do with the injury.

With the Pirates in a bind, A.J. Schugel came through in a big way. The 26-year-old right-hander pitched four innings and threw 42 pitches, both season highs, and he came away without a blemish, holding the Cardinals without a hit and striking out a career-high four.

“It’s something I’ve never had to do before, but I’ve said before, whenever my name is called, I try to be ready and do what I can to help out,” Schugel said.

The Pirates also lost starting catcher Francisco Cervelli due to injury in the fourth inning. Cervelli cited pain in his left hand through the team and did not appear in the Pirates’ clubhouse after the game.

“It put us in a bind and I thought we responded very well,” Hurdle said of losing his starting battery so early in the game. “I don’t think you could’ve ever wanted a bigger effort than what you got from A.J. Schugel. One of the stalwarts that’s been in our bullpen and pitched extremely well.”

But if there’s been one constant with the Pirates’ bullpen this season is that no one is consistent. Schugel was in line for a feel-good win until Neftali Feliz surrendered a three-run, go-ahead home run to Matt Carpenter in the eighth inning. It was the second home run allowed in three appearances by Feliz, who had just come off a streak of 13 appearances where he allowed no runs and just three hits.

Nicasio’s struggles in the 12th were a bit more understandable. It was his first appearance out of the bullpen this season, and after starting and throwing 89 pitches against the Mets on Tuesday, he was scheduled to throw his between-starts bullpen session on Friday.

“It’s never easy, regardless if he’s pitched in the bullpen or not,” Hurdle said of Nicasio’s spot appearance in the bullpen. “That’s why we don’t do it a lot and that’s why nobody does it a lot.”

Nicasio ended up throwing 44 pitches, which was “more than we wanted to take,” according to Hurdle. The number of pitches thrown — not to mention the results — may put into question Nicasio’s next scheduled start, which was supposed to be Tuesday in New York.

As has been the case for most of the last week, the Pirates are again at near-emergency levels of bullpen readiness. Schugel, obviously, will not be available Saturday. Kyle Lobstein pitched an inning after throwing 2.1 the day before in Denver, and it took Mark Melancon 26 pitches to get through his one inning. Notwithstanding Cole’s injury, the Pirates may be forced to make another roster move for bullpen help this weekend.

“We’ll figure something out,” Hurdle said.

BLOOM OFF ROSE?

The Pirates tied the game in the ninth inning off St. Louis closer Trevor Rosenthal. Starling Marte started the inning with a triple to right and Jordy Mercer drove him in with an RBI single. It’s not the first time the Pirates have done damage against Rosenthal. Since the beginning of 2015, he has blown just five saves. Four of them were against the Pirates.

“I don’t know [what it is] specifically,” Hurdle said. “We get pitches to hit. [When] we don’t foul them off, we’re able to put them in play and take advantage of what was there for us. We have had some success, that probably doesn’t hurt as well. Hitters are going in knowing it’s something we’ve been able to pull off before.”

“Obviously, he has electric stuff,” Mercer added. “Everybody knows he’s going to come at you with the fastball, it’s just a matter of getting a good pitch and trying to find some green grass out there.”

Mercer agreed with Hurdle that more a team has success off an elite closer, the more confident they’re going to be in future matchups with him.

“If in your previous outings, you’ve gotten to him a little bit and your team is rallying late in innings, when you face him the next time, you’re going to carry that momentum over,” Mercer said. “Obviously, you can’t do it every time, because he’s that good. He’s one of the best. But that does tend to help us when you’ve had success off him and you can carry it over.”

SUB STOP

As he has done in most of the team’s close games, Hurdle sent Sean Rodriguez out as a defensive replacement at first base in the eighth inning. It didn’t exactly go as planned, though. Rodriguez was unable to come up with a pair of throws from Jung Ho Kang in the 11th and 12th inning. Neither play ended up hurting the Pirates (and Kang was charged with a throwing error on one), but it brought into question the value of Rodriguez’s defense at the position. He went 1 for 3 at the plate, including a strikeout with the bases loaded in the ninth inning. Jaso was 1 for 2 with a walk and an RBI.

“We’re working to that point,” Hurdle said of Jaso’s defense being strong enough for him to stay in games. “It’s something we’re still working through. He’s working hard and getting better every day.”

SMALL BALL BUCS

The Pirates scored two runs against Wacha, and both of them came through old school small-ball techniques.

In the second inning, Starling Marte singled to right and advanced to third on a perfectly executed hit-and-run by Francisco Cervelli. Josh Harrison then drove him home with a fielder’s choice. In the fifth, Mercer led off with a walk, Schugel bunted him to second and Jaso drove him home.

In total, Wacha surrender only three hits, but the pair of runs was enough for him to leave the game with a deficit.

“He pitched well with a downhill angle,” Hurdle said. “He executed pitches and kept the ball down. We’ve seen it before.”

NOTES

• The Cardinals are now one game ahead of the Pirates for second place in the National League Central. The Pirates also fell behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami Marlins in the Wild Card standings.

• Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright hit the go-ahead RBI double in the 12th inning as a pinch hitter.

• Francisco Liriano will face Carlos Martinez on Saturday. That game will start at 7:15 p.m.

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dr dng

I am total depressed. Almost feel like the season is close to
potentially in the dumper. I think we are lucky if Liriano gets
through the 4th inning Saturday and if he does not do that
who will pitch the rest of the game? I think he needs some
DL rest. We now have no idea who is pitching on Tuesday.
No way Nacasio will be ready by then. We have both catchers
hurting and no one else on the 40 man, & pitchers who are
overworked and some hurt. I think McCutchon should be
on the short term DL so he can be healthy for the rest of
the season. Anyone who can find a bright side to this?

Marty W

Taillon can be recalled to pitch Tuesday if someone is placed on the DL. And I agree that Clint`s overmanaging cost the game last night. STOP taking Jaso out for SRod, for crying out loud! What does SRod have on these guys? Every game they find an excuse to play him and, although good defensively, he chokes at the plate with men on base.

Bill W

Mr. Saunders Hurdle made was very big mistakes last night. Why not heat on the managerial genius?

Bill W

I think walking the rookie to put the go ahead run on second was a mistake. I know in hindsight but the move did not make sense.

dr dng

Why did they not keep Shugle(sp) in?

dr dng

How did that work out?

brad c

The shark tank has become the gold fish bowl

escilade18

You think they are that good even? I think they have fallen even lower to the s*** tank at this point.

Joshuatree

God damn right w keeping Jaso in! I stated before that Jaso has already proven to stay in games for the duration! S-Rod coming into the game is a liability in late innings when games like last night happen! It’s killing our pinch-hitting! Jasos bat should never leave the lineup!

Bobby L

Unless there is an injury to put Cole (or Nicasio) on the DL there are no options at AAA. Sending Luebke down and bringing up either Masterson or Rondon look to be the only alternatives.

Losing Cervelli, even for the short term could really hurt. Can’t imagine Stewart as a starter. OUCH.

IC Bob

Am a fan of Hurdle but walking Diaz (a good hitter but not a great power hitter) and moving the potential winning run to 2nd makes no sense even if a pitcher is up next. That move is the definition of over managing.

Joshuatree

It was a call any coach would of made to bring up a pitcher! Nicasio got complacent though which he wouldn’t of done w Diaz so we might never know but I can tell you this….Nicasio learned a valuable lesson for the future to not take anyone for granted!

Koloacat

Wrong, wrong, wrong!! The only time that it might be acceptable to intentionally walk the potential winning run into scoring position in extra innings is if the batter is Barry Bonds or someone like that. You do not walk a guy like Diaz intentionally with a runner on first. You just don’t. Pirates currently combining bad luck, bad decision making and poor performance, which is a toxic mix.

Joshuatree

If you say so COACH!!! They should be paying you the BIG BUCKS!!! Hahah! It was the pitcher so you know! It’s called a gamble!

Koloacat

Be sure and let me know the next time you see a MLB manager intentionally walk the winning run into scoring position in extra innings. It will be a VERY long time before you see it again. And the reason for that is simple–it’s a really bad gamble.

Luke S

If your SP cant get out a guy who hits .220, there is no reason to think he can be expected to get out Diaz.

Even the best hitting pitcher isnt as good as Diaz at the plate. Juan Nicasio has to get outs, and if he cant do it against Waino he is going to lose that game.

turks44

yea that’s baseball 101, never move the go ahead run into scoring position.

Biagio

But Hurdle is the smartest guy in the room! Just ask him.

Luke S

Funny stuff, if it wasnt for the clear fact that Hurdle never says that and is about the most laid back, humble guy when you hear him speak.

I mean NH can get the “smart guy” tag, but jeebus CH is far from a know it all type.

emjayinTN

It was my fault, because I played a round of golf yesterday and was feeling tired, so I shut it down after Tony Watson pitched a VG 7th. The team is just not making it happen, and it is no time to bayonet the wounded. Nuff said.

Bill W

Your fired! Thanks for taking one for the fan base. Rick Sofield made you a cake and Hurdle has a few gems of wisdom for parting gifts.

William S

Here’s hoping Liriano has seven in him tomorrow…

Y2JGQ2

earned runs?

Joshuatree

Make it 9 but it will never happen in his career!

William S

If they let him go out there like the Mets let Santana one fateful night. Too much contract left for those shenanigans now though.

Bill W

Batters?

William S

That’d be a good start given the recent trend.

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