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.
***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.”