A Short Bullpen Helps Lead to a Pirates 6-5 Loss Against the Dodgers

PITTSBURGH — The Pirates apparently came into Monday’s series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers with just four readily available relief pitchers.

The Pirates used A.J. Schugel, Daniel Hudson, and Juan Nicasio in the seventh, eighth, and ninth and got two scoreless innings out of Joaquin Benoit before Dovydas Neverauskas gave up a solo home run to Yasiel Puig in the top of the 12th to propel the Dodgers to a 6-5 victory.

George Kontos suffered a groin injury in Williamsport on Sunday and was unable to pitch after initially thinking that he would be able to pregame. Felipe Rivero was unavailable after throwing 30 pitches over the weekend. The Pirates were also hesitant to use Neverauskas, who had never pitched on three consecutive nights, according to manager Clint Hurdle. That led to the two innings from Benoit, which is the most he’s thrown since June 20, 2016.

The Pirates tied the game with the a rally in the eighth inning. Adam Frazier was hit by former Pirate reliever Tony Watson and scored on Josh Harrison’s RBI double. Josh Bell later scored Harrison with a fielder’s choice.

Pirates starter Gerrit Cole pitched six scoreless innings, but got rocked in the seventh, giving up five runs on five hits as the Pirates surrendered the lead.

Cole worked out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the second inning and then cruised through five scoreless before running into some trouble in the sixth. A hit batter, a single and an error loaded the bases in the sixth inning, but Cole got Adrian Gonzalez to fly out to the warning track to end that threat.

Sitting at 90 pitches after sixth, Cole started the seventh and quickly ran into trouble again. This time, Corey Seager hit an RBI single and Justin Turner singled to load the bases for the third time. Cole couldn’t escape that one, as Curtis Granderson hit a grand slam to right center to give Los Angeles a 5-3 lead.

The Pirates scored three runs off Dodgers starter Alex Wood, all via solo home run. Jose Osuna and Sean Rodriguez went back-to-back in the second inning and Harrison hit his 15th of the year in the third as part of a 3 for 4 night with 2 RBIs.

Here’s more from Cole on his frustrating night:

HE SAID IT

“It probably affected it a little bit in the seventh. I had Schugel, Benoit, and Hudson for options and Gerrit had gotten out of one jam in the second and a minor one in the (sixth). I still know he’s got pitches. He’s our ace. I still felt he was the best equipped to get out of that situation. Schugel wasn’t going to get the ball until Cole showed he couldn’t get out of that situation. I have all the confidence in the world in Gerrit. He gave it everything he had. He got a wrong result there and that’s on me.”

— Pirates manager Clint Hurdle on how much the state of his bullpen effected his decision-making process with Gerrit Cole in the seventh inning.

GAME IN GRAPHS

Harrison’s home run to give him 15 on the season extended his career high, but his overall power numbers are actually down slightly from his previous career best.

That’s because as he’s seen a rise in home runs, he’s also seen a decline in doubles at the same time. He brought his ISO for the season to .158 on Monday. He had a .159 mark in 2013 and a .174 in 2014.

QUICK HITS

***Jameson Taillon got a new PNC Park view, as the Pirates scheduled Tuesday starter was forced to head to the bullpen in case he was called upon. After the Pirates pinch-hit for Neverauskas with Chad Kuhl in the bottom of the 12th and Andrew McCutchen advanced into scoring position as the potential tying run, Taillon actually had to start getting warmed up, as he would have been responsible for the 13th inning and beyond.

It was the first time Taillon had ever had to do anything like that. In fact, it was the first time he’d been in the bullpen during a game.

“It’s different out there,” he said. “You can’t see right field. You have to go on fan reaction.”

Taillon didn’t seem to mind his late-game adventure and said he’ll be fine to start as scheduled on Tuesday.

***Rodriguez went 1 for 3 with his home run to improve his season line to .219/.342/.469. Those figures aren’t exactly where he’d like them to be, but feels like he’s getting to a pretty good plate in the batter’s box. Since coming to Pittsburgh, he’s hit .292/.370/.542.

“I feel like I’m really, really close, because I feel like I’m able to repeat some good at-bats,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like it’s more and more consistent and I feel like it’s more and more repeatable. That’s obviously showing out there. I’m getting not only good contact, but consistently in the direction I want it to be. That’s definitely important.”

***Since jettisoning Watson and Antonio Bastardo in July, the Pirates have had just two lefties in the bullpen. With Wade LeBlanc on the disabled list, they have just one. With Rivero unavailable on Monday, Hurdle had none to help with Granderson in the seventh. Granderson has a career .857 OPS against righties and a .698 OPS against lefties. When asked about whether that puts him at a disadvantage, Hurdle was uncharacteristically brief.

“Thank you for that, yeah, I got that information as well,” he said. “We have some right-handers that can get some people out, that can get some left-handers out.”

  • Trade Cole to Yanks for Gleyber Torres. Cole has been only average last 2 years, not pitching like an ace or an overall No. 1 draft pick.

  • Sorry to post so late, but who do you blame for this one. I for one think it falls squarely on Clint’s shoulders. He seems to be always a batter to late to take out the pitcher as he was in this game. I don’t like Cole but he tried his best but he always gives up home runs, so what he did was not unexpected but Clint needs to be let go.

  • When the Cole topic comes up I think of this song, “Don’t stop believing,” by Journey. It’s at least a song you could make a parody out of for Cole.

    • Off the topic of Cole, another concern is 3B, as DF is really showing his age. He’s been shaky in the field for portions of the season, and the cupboard is bare at the upper levels of the minors. Hopefully, that’s one of the first things the FO addresses in the off season. Barring injury JH can be the everyday 2B next year with AF and SR as the plug/play utility guys.
      See what we can get for DF. And JB must be the everyday/every inning 1B. Now for all of that to happen, the prerequisite is that CH doesn’t return, since he won’t look upon JB as veteran enough to play everyday.

      • If they can’t find help at 3b then they could look for 2nd base starter and move JHay to 3rd. That subject came up before the trade deadline. There was demand for the 3rd base position, but not as much at 2nd base.

      • The return for Freese would be very low, borderline prospect with low ceiling in low minors if that.

  • It’s even shorter tonight. Did the Pirates bring anyone up today?

  • Cole is so predictable. If struggles early he usually bounces back. When he dodges a bullet in the 5-7th innings he should never come back out the next inning. This is his M.O. I blame this on Hurdle for not knowing his players.

  • This team is a complete mess and it starts with the GM. Is anyone surprised they go into last night’s game with 4 relievers?

    • Cole pitches like the number 1 over all pick and it becomes a non-issue. That includes going seven or eight innings. Is that the GMs fault?

      • Yes. It’s all Cole’s fault. He only gave you 6 scoreless against the best offense in MLB. Perfectly defensible to go into that game with 4 relievers.

        • We needed 8 innings from him to get to Felipe. We needed one outstanding game from the “ace.” Is that too much as for? I’m convinced it is.
          Just call him what he is, an inconsistent pitcher, who has dropped off greatly like another Boras client, Matt Harvey.

          • Felipe wasn’t even available last night.

            You can call Cole whatever you want, I’m not real concerned with nomenclature. I am concerned that NH thinks it’s OK to play with 4 relievers.

        • A) Actually, reading more since my post, they thought they were going into the game with five. Kontos got up to loosen up to go in and couldn’t.

          B) Number one over all pitchers, front of the rotation guys NEED to go at least seven each time out there. At too many pitches? Well, that’s because he sucked in the second inning, even though he didn’t give up anything. Long story short: It starts with him.

  • A shame the Pirates didn’t bring Bormann up to solidify the pen…

  • were we close to seeing TG getting a call up today? Had JT gone last night in extras, would they have brought up Glasnow (he’s pitching today right so that would be normal rest)…..something to ponder

  • It makes for an interesting off season. I keep coming back to what I’ve been saying for years. While GC is our “ace” he’s not an ace pitcher. We don’t have one yet.
    I understand the short bullpen last night, but all throughout the game, I was waiting for GC to offer up a gopher ball, and he didn’t disappoint, and to old man Curtis no less, the very guy some people wanted us to get. Poetic justice for NH I guess.
    Hey, the good news: this is week 3 of Steelers preseason, so we can see starters longer.

    • That Cole was beyond ready to depart and Clint didn’t take him out was more obvious and egregious than Grady Little leaving Pedro in during the 2003 ALCS.

      From my seats in 121 I swear I could even see Stewart look into the dugout like, “Really, you’re not coming to get him?”

      Happy for you that you enjoy the Steelers. Many of us can’t stand the NFL so it’s of no solace.

    • michael schalke
      August 22, 2017 9:54 am

      I’ve been a Pirate fan for over 50 years and we’ve had very few “aces”. Veale, Blass, Candelaria, Drabek? None of these are superstar pitchers.

      • I’ve also been a fan for over 50 years, and I agree we’ve had few if any superstar pitchers. I don’t believe you have to be superstar to qualify as an ace. My point is I cringe every time I hear Cole referred to as our ace. An ace is the guy we should be able to rely upon to stop the bleeding, or to give us big wins when we need them. The table was set for him last night. It was a “statement ” game starting the series against LA, and to top it off, he was staked to a three run lead. And what did he do? He was the Gerrit Cole we’ve seen over the last few years. Yes, he’s gutsy and wants to win, and the default leader, but he’s not the winner guys like Blass, Candy, and Drabeck were. Since you go back to the glory days like I do, I’m sure you’d agree, that you’re probably glad Blass pitched in the ’71 series and not Cole.

        • michael schalke
          August 22, 2017 6:03 pm

          Most definitely glad that Blass pitched that game. Unfortunatlely a couple years later he completely fell apart.
          Cole has a good arm but doesn’t change speeds well and is somewhat of a head case.

  • BuccosFanStuckinMD
    August 22, 2017 7:58 am

    In last night’s game, bullpen was fine. Cole giving up 5 in the 6th was the killer.

    • It was the 7th. And lol, no one is blaming bullpen for the loss. No one should blame Cole for the loss either. He pitched a shutout six innings against the best team in MLB. Then he walked one, gave up two consecutive hits, and reached over 110 pitch count in the 7th. No manager except for Hurdle will leave him like that, even with the 4 man bullpen.

      • Cole should be able to go seven each time out.

        • LOL. Only pitcher in MLB that goes seven full (7.0 IP/GS) *each* time out is Chris Sale.

          – Kluber: 6.9 IP/GS
          – Kershaw, Scherzer: 6.7
          – deGrom: 6.6
          – Archer: 6.4
          – Keuchel, Porcello: 6.3
          – Cole, Darvish: 6.2
          – Strasburg, Verlander: 6.1
          – Paxton: 6.0
          – Quintana, Tanaka: 5.8
          – Lester: 5.7

          • How often are these guys giving up grand slams in the 7th?

            • I don’t know, because the managers actually yank them before they give up a grand slam

              • Trevor threw 108 pitches tonight, went into the 8th, no runs.

                Gerrit fell apart in the 7th, giving up lots of hits and that HR, left after 112 pitches.

                As team ace, Trevor’s line is what is expected out of Gerrit Cole every time he takes the ball. He’s not doing his job.

                • What do you not understand? Not even Kershaw or Scherzer pitches a seven or more shutout innings every single time they start.

                  Also, you can’t just compare Williams’ career best performance to Cole’s worse performance as if Williams pitches like that all the time. And 100% LOB is not a sustainable rate especially when he was seeing lower GB% compared to his career rate.

                  Don’t get me wrong, I also expect more from Cole and agree that he needs to pitch better. (and not give up grand slams) But if you think Cole’s not doing his job because he should pitch 8 shutout innings everytime he starts, you’re delusional.

                  • Seven actually. And I don’t need a shutout. The reality is the second inning is what killed him that game, tired him out. If this was a one time slip, fine. He’s given up way too many HRs this season, came out of games way too early.

                    He was destroyed in that seventh. How many pitches did he enter the inning with? It wasn’t just the HR – that was the icing. Bases loaded, a run already in, only one out? Kershaw or Scherzer more often than not get out of that inning with a lot less damage when they’ve carried that load.

                    BTW, keep in mind they entered the game thinking they had five relievers. Kontos couldn’t answer the call.

                    • Yes, homeruns are a problem. Is it only Cole’s issue though? No. There’s an increased amount of HRs throughout the league. Cole will have to figure out how to suppress it but don’t act like he’s the only one having trouble with it. He’s never had issues like this and will have to make adjustments.

                      Cole entered the 7th with a 90 pitch count which wasn’t too many for 6 innings. And then he loaded the bases with walk and hits. Those hits weren’t XBH, but he was losing it. Five relievers or not, it’s still ridiculous that Hurdle thought Cole had the same sharpness he had in the 2nd inning.

                      And I don’t know why you keep comparing Cole against Kershaw or Scherzer. Cole’s an ace in our rotation, not the league. And definitely not all team aces pitch like Kershaw or Scherzer.

                      BTW, keep in mind Cole didn’t get any lucky 98mph exit velocity liners with hit expectancy of 84% to Mercer or statcast 5 star worthy fly balls to Marte, unlike Williams did. Is that because Cole had worse performance or is that just baseball? Oh, and did I mention Cole had to face Turner, the .336/.425/.544 guy with 157 wRC+ unlike Williams?

                      “Came out of games way too early” Out of 26 starts this season, he has 6 games that he didn’t pitch at least 6 innings. And 4 of them came from the bad stretch he had pre-ASB (5/22-6/8). He could definitely do better, I agree. But you’re just focusing on the bad and acting like that’s the norm.

                      I’m gonna stop here. I understand what you mean. Cole’s our ace and it’s disappointing when he blows the lead. But I’m also going to embrace the fact that he did great for six innings and that he’s been pitching pretty solidly since ASB. And that he’s not Kershaw nor Scherzer too. I expect him to pitch QS every time he starts so he gives the team a chance to win, which is a more reasonable expectation.

      • BuccosFanStuckinMD
        August 22, 2017 2:13 pm

        I thought Cole was our big stud ace? Its his fault he threw 110 pitches in less than 7 imnings. 4.26 ERA….a #3 at best.

      • Again, easy to say in hindsight when Cole got him our earlier.

        • Right, I’m not saying it’s 100% not Cole’s fault. He’s the one who walked one, allowed the hits and more but Hurdle thinking the 2nd inning jam was the same as 7th inning jam is ridiculous. Even in the 6th inning he almost gave up a grand slam.

  • Hurdle was needed when they brought him in to breathe life into a desperate situation. Now this team needs a stronger “in your face” manager with a no nonsense approach like a Jim Leyland. The baby sitting needs to end and a hot fire needs lit under these “boys” butts.

    • Hopefully this franchise raises the white flag and starts building for 2018. They hired Joey Cora last year and many, including me, saw this as the successor to CH. We have fallen from 98 Wins in 2015 to 78 in 2016, and around that same number this year – all with one of the most “veteran” lineups in MLB.

      Management forced the firing of a few Hurdle cronies after the 2016 season, and now it is time to complete that job. Clean house – all go except Cora and Searage. If Cora wants to promote coaches from within the organization, so be it.

  • The frustration Cole has is clearly evident. He was left hung out on the line far too long by Hurdle last night. Yes the bullpen was short, but Schugel should’ve been called on to face Turner after the run scoring hit by Seegar.

    Just another disappointing game in a season full of them.

    • A very short bullpen with only 5 possibles and Kontos, who was one of the 5, was iffy at best. Could Brault have returned? If not, Cody Dickson at AAA, but my pick would have been Brandon Waddell who was well rested and pitched a helluva game for Altoona last night.

      Could any of Schugel (8 pitches), Hudson (10 pitches), or Nicasio (11 pitches) gone 2 innings?

    • I think he was frustrated in himself and the pitch he threw after a good 6 innings. I doubt he wanted to come out after just over 100 pitches. He got Granderson before, so IMO, it was not a no-brainer to bring in Schugel. Easy to say in hindsight.

      • Scott Kliesen
        August 23, 2017 5:35 am

        Cole’s a competitor. I’m sure he wanted to continue, but it was plainly evident he had lost his competitive edge and was a ticking time bomb. Hurdle gets paid to know the right time to go to the pen. Quite simply, he failed in this instance.

  • Please extend Hurdle 5 years. I love watching him manage.

    • Very very funny! It is beyond clear after 2 totally boring and disappointing seasons that the Pirates are desperately in need of massive changes (that is if they have any commitment at all to winning, which one can legitimately doubt (again!). They don’t seem to have any true impact talent ready at AAA (aside from maybes in Glasnow and Meadows, neither of whom appear to be) and zero impact bats at AA either (apparently – Newman, really?). They would have been better served seeing if they could get any return for Nicasio, Freese, Jaso, Cervelli, Hudson at the trade deadline – probably not much. So short of impactful free agent signings that will never happen, where is the improvement coming from. Their record against the Reds suggests that they are close to the 5th best team in this division. Cutch is their best trade piece but also best and classiest player, but it looks like they will not re-sign him, and would he really want to re-sign for years more of mediocrity and frustration when he can go elsewhere? Does anyone out there see any real solutions other than the one that is so unlikely- getting rid of Nutting? This team seems like it has no fight in it, and they are really short on talent in too many areas. Help!!

      • My thoughts have been trade Cole to improve the offense. Resign Cutch for 4 years. Tear up option year. Now if he won’t take 4 years trade him too. Build around Bell, Harrison and Marte. Only Marte because he has no trade value right now. All the other positions can be upgraded. Use AAA depth to fill Coles spot next year.

      • Jimmy Leyland, sign 22, new SS, see what the AAA arms can do, Diaz (no stew), bring Perry Hill back and a new GM.

        • No way in HELL is Leyland coming back. This team is closer to the 1993 team than the team which won 3 division 3 straight years. Hill was a mistake the first time. He doesn’t like transition, I doubt he could handle this new philosophy of positional flexibility. The rest of what you wrote I agree with. Biggest team need is a miracle worker GM. one that can turn water into wine.

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