Pirates Swept By Rays, Assisted By the Umpires

SAINT PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Pirates are no strangers to a sweep this season.

Until today, they have yet to be on the receiving end of a sweep. That changed when the Tampa Bay Rays won today 3-2, wrapping up a three-game sweep on a day that was filled with injuries, bad umpiring, and Tampa home runs.

Vince Velasquez aimed to get the Pirates back on track. Unfortunately, Velasquez left after the third inning with right elbow discomfort. His velocity dipped after a specific pitch. He was optimistic after the outing, noting that he’s been fine through something similar in the past, but this situation led to a quick decision to exit.

The bullpen kept the Pirates in the game, pitching five innings with two runs allowed. That included an immaculate inning by Colin Holderman, who struck out the side on nine pitches in the seventh. Holderman said that the way the series was going had him mad, and he was able to channel that energy into the inning.

“I don’t like losing,” said Holderman. “I’m a competitive person. It doesn’t matter who it is. If we lose, I’m mad.”

The offense couldn’t channel any runs, though that wasn’t exactly on them. Home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez had several high strike threes that were called on the Pirates.

“I know our hitters had a lot of questions about pitches, and we had what? Five or six called strikeout looking,” said Shelton. “With some guys that don’t react. Cutch doesn’t react very often. Connor Joe doesn’t react very often. Reynolds doesn’t react very often.”

After the game, Reynolds went with the simple “it is what it is.”

McCutchen was more open. Here’s a bit of the frustration he showed, via Alex Stumpf.

Unfortunately, as McCutchen said, there’s really nothing that can be done, as umpires have no accountability in this game. It is what it is, as Reynolds noted.

Joe was a victim of two strikeouts which were called outside of the zone early in the game. He struck out swinging in the final at-bat. I asked if that had an impact on his zone later in the game.

“You know, it’s pros,” said Joe. “We try not to let it affect us. Try to do our best to stick to that approach where we’ve created. It’s in the back of our minds, though, right?”

The Pirates did threaten in the end. With two on and two outs, Carlos Santana hit a double to cut the score to 3-2. I wrote about how the Pirates needed veterans to step up right now, and Santana did that by putting the Pirates in striking distance to tie. Jack Suwinski followed with a walk, but the game ended on a strikeout by Joe.

“We need to get better,” said Joe of the game today. “We need to keep working offensively. I think the pitching staff did a great job. Keeping that game close. I mean, it’s a chance for us to win that game, all the way until the ninth. Didn’t get the clutch hit a couple times this series. And I think that’s a difference, right? Winning a couple games and getting swept.”

The Rays are a good team. I’ve written the last two nights about how you can’t make mistakes against them. Today was a day where they didn’t make mistakes, but they didn’t get much help from the umpires.

The Pirates return home tomorrow to face the Blue Jays in a three game series with Rich Hill on the mound.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Wilbur Miller

The ump scorecard for yesterday’s travesty confirms that it was . . . a travesty. It’s easily the worst one I’ve ever seen.

If you check the more detailed data, Manny Gonzalez’ crooked performance ranked in the 0 percentile for accuracy and 1st percentile for consistency. I didn’t even know there was a 0 percentile.

Last edited 26 days ago by Wilbur Miller

I usually stay away from conspiracy theory but watching yesterday was one of worst games I’ve ever seen EVER and the data confirms it. Part of me wondered if it wasn’t some sort of payback directed at Shelton and Pirates. Or maybe just blatant incompetence. Either way, it was terrible.

Wilbur Miller

Way the hell too much coincidence, especially after two OTHER games that were badly umpired to the Pirates’ detriment.
Importantly, Gonzalez wasn’t just horribly inaccurate. He was horribly uneven on one side. Again, just too much coincidence.




Where can I see the ump scorecard for yesterday?

Wilbur Miller


Just scroll down to the Pirates’ game. There’s a link in the tweet to more data.


I checked Manny’s Data, and although this game was his worst of the season, it wasn’t by much. He’s a horrible homeplate umpire, period.


literally is worse than the 10% percentile in damn near every category involving accuracy or consistency for the season


The atmosphere created by Cutch and Santana is one of the many reasons the Pirates have been winning before this series. The players have embraced the underdog role and went in with no fear against teams like the Astros, Red Sox and Cardinals.

The atmosphere changed. It looked we came out thinking we are now the Yankees, were obviously pressing, then got it handed to us. We need to embrace the underdog role again.


Jetlagged, missed the game, heard the umpiring was terrible. By the looks of the scoring, seems like it was a closer match than game 1 and 2 so quite disappointing outcome. Good thing is all of the NL Central neighbors also lost 😂


There was a game in the Cardinal series where the umpiring crew was just bad. This one it seemed they were biased. At one point of the game it was reported that the Pirates were called out 7 times on a called strike 3, while 5 of those were out of the strike zone.

I do like your optimistic twist about not losing ground to the rest of the division.


Umpiring is never the reason for a defeat



Yep. It can contribute, but it’s never the main reason for a defeat. Excessively complaining about it is never a good look.

Last edited 27 days ago by chappy

Right. And the pirates couldn’t have won that game in any of the other extra innings? Really?


“Never”? That’s hilarious and demonstrably false. Everybody on the field contributes to the game, including the umpires. In this game, the home plate umpire was part of the story and contributed to the loss. What if Connor Joe had walked twice instead of having been rung up twice? Who knows. It was a one run game, even with the incompetent home plate umpire. It is irrational to rule out, in principle, umpires being the reason for a loss.


Felt for the first time yesterday that I was looking forward to robot umpires.

The problem with this game is he was giving strikes to the home side that he was calling balls to the visitors… almost uniformly… and this was all day.

So it’s a bit worse than what if Joe walked instead of whiffed twice. It was that their batters also benefitted. It’s a compounding effect that adds weight on BOTH sides of the game.

I wouldn’t have so much difficulty if the ump was consistent across batters on both sides. I don’t think he was and I think he tipped the game to the home side.

b mcferren

reading between the lines is a dig on his manager

“try not to get thrown out of the game”

Wilbur Miller

— Cutch getting ejected
— Connor Joe getting ejected
— Shelton getting ejected

One of these is not like the others.

b mcferren

it is painfully obvious how much shelton is over his skiis

of course there are repercussions for bad mouthing THE ENTIRE umpiring crew

those that blame the umps do not appreciate the nuances of the game

put your calculators down nerds, go watch ken burns baseball and buy a wax pack

Last edited 27 days ago by b mcferren

you’re an absolute treasure.


Shelton did exactly what he should’ve done in that moment. If you don’t stand up for yourself, you will get continually abused. Just ask the Penguins

Wilbur Miller

“it is painfully obvious how much shelton is over his skiis”

Exactly. So it hurts the Pirates for him to get ejected . . . ?

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