One of my favorite things to do is look over the MLB schedules when they get released, especially the Pirates. This year, the schedule makers didn’t help the Pirates out at all by giving the toughest schedule to start the season with in all of baseball: Phillies, Dodgers, Giants, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Rockies, Braves, Cardinals, Reds and Nationals. It wasn’t until May 11, today, that I felt the Pirates would get a break in their schedule when the Astros would come to town for a three-game set.
Apparently, I was wrong. If you thought their 17 strikeout performance against Mat Latos and the Reds on Sunday was their worst game yet, apparently you are wrong too.
In a game that was filled with missed opportunities, the Pirates fell victim to the Astros 1-0. The trouble started in the top of the fourth inning when Jose Tabata led of the Pirates frame with a leadoff triple. What ensued left Pirates fan livid as Nate McLouth popped up a first-pitch, Tabata was gunned out at home on a fielders choice and Andrew McCutchen would be thrown out attempting to steal second base.
In the sixth inning, the Pirates put themselves in position to strike once again as Rod Barajas and Clint Barmes would leadoff the inning with a double and single respectively. After a James McDonald designed sacrifice bunt was bobbled by the Astros pitcher Bud Norris, one would think the Pirates would score with the bases loaded and no outs right?
Turning it over to the top of the lineup, Tabata struck out on a good at bat and McLouth would once again pop the ball up in the infield. The Pirates final hope of the inning was McCutchen who would follow suit and strikeout, this time looking.
“When the game gets hard, it looks more difficult to play than it is,” Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle said. “Nobody is beating themselves up more than those guys in there when we miss them. We have to look for a way to continue to push through it.”
In their last attempt of the game, Josh Harrison took over for Barajas as a pinch-runner at first. Following a Brad Mills ejection for what looked to be a fouled bunt attempt or a strikeout on Barmes, the woes continued for the Pirates. Harrison was picked-off first base ending any chance for the Pirates to even it up.
If there is a positive to take out of tonight’s game, it’s another solid performance by the Pirates James McDonald. McDonald allowed just four hits and one run over eight innings of ball. His eight strikeouts of the game now give him 33 over his past four starts and bringing his ERA down to 2.44. His record does fall to 2-2 however because of the lack of offense.
“It’s part of the game,” McDonald said about the lack of runs. “I’ve been that guy on the mound getting shelled and my guys still believe in me, stay behind me and play hard. They did what I asked of them today to play hard behind me with good defense. They had a good effort and that’s all you can ask for.”
In other news, Pedro Alvarez struck out three times tonight, bringing his average down to .209. Since moving to the cleanup spot on Saturday night, Pedro has yet to record a hit. Hurdle is happy with his at bats however.
“He hasn’t gotten a hit yet and we are looking for that first hit from the four spot,” Hurdle said. “Not it’s just not getting a hit. It’s not that he’s swinging and chasing. He’s squared balls up and is taking his walks. As far as I’m concerned, I am pleased with his at bats from the cleanup spot.”
Game two of the three-game set will take place tomorrow as Charlie Morton (1-3, 4.61 ERA) will take the mound for the Pirates (14-18) and J.A. Happ (2-2, 5.24 ERA) will take the bump for the Astros (15-17). First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET.
Photo credits: AP Photo