Grilli blows save as Pirates waste historic long-ball night
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle wants Jason Grilli back in the closer role. But that plan remains on hold after Friday's 5-4 loss to the Cubs.
Grilli had been so good prior to his forearm injury in July perhaps the game's best closer. He entered Friday with just one blown save, a blemish occurring June 19 in Cincinnati when he allowed a solo home run to Jay Bruce.
But on Friday, Anthony Rizzo smashed a hanging Grilli slider out of PNC Park for a two-run home run in the seventh, giving Chicago the lead for good and Grilli his second blown save.
It marked the second time Grilli pitched with the lead in the seventh or eighth inning since returning from the disabled list. It was the next benchmark Hurdle wanted Grilli to clear before considering him again for end-game duties.
Grilli's velocity was down, as it had been in his previous three outings, sitting at 91 mph. The fastball averaged 93.5 mph prior to the injury. While his slider had its moments — he struck out Junior Lake and Starlin Castro with the pitch to begin the seventh — it lacked consistency. He missed with a slider on a borderline pitch to walk Luis Valbuena, and Rizzo followed by smashing a slider into the Allegheny River.
Hurdle allowed the right-handed Grilli to pitch to Rizzo despite Rizzo's .178 batting average against lefties.
“It's command,” Hurdle said of what Grilli must improve. “You saw him very effective with the first two hitters. It's just continuing to work to finish innings. There's no safety net at this level. We believe in him. We're going to keep giving him the ball when it makes sense. You can't let him sit too long if you want him to get better.”
After the game, Grilli sat quietly with his head down at his locker. He declined to speak with reporters.
“Not talking today,” Grill said.
Rizzo's home run was the decisive shot on a historic night of home runs for the Pirates.
In the fourth, Pedro Alvarez hit a ball off the right-center wall that ricocheted away from Cubs center fielder Ryan Sweeney for an inside-the-park home run. It was Alvarez's NL-best 33rd home run.
Russell Martin smashed the next pitch, a 92 mph fastball, over the left-field wall.
Two pitches later, Sweeney watched a Garrett Jones home run land halfway up the right-center field seats to even the score at 3-3.
It was the first time the Pirates hit three consecutive home runs since Jason Kendall, Brian Giles and Reggie Sanders went back to back to back on Aug. 20, 2003, in St. Louis. It marked just the ninth time in club history three consecutive Pirates homered and the first time at home since July 6, 1955 vs. Brooklyn at Forbes Field.
The home runs took starter Charlie Morton off the hook for a loss.
Morton made his first start since injuring his left foot, his landing foot, Sunday against St. Louis when he allowed five runs over 12⁄3 innings. Morton was not his typical groundball-inducing self Friday, allowing more flyouts (5) than groundouts (4). He allowed three runs over five innings.
“The sinker came and went,” Hurdle said. “The ball wasn't on the ground with the consistency we've seen in the past.”
Morton's sinking two-seamer too often was left elevated, including on Brian Bogusevic's two-run homer that gave the Cubs a 3-0 lead in the fourth. He also did not have his changeup against a Cubs lineup loaded with five left-handed bats.
Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates notebook: Phillies’ Burnett not demanding trade
- Rossi: Liriano no ace, but he’s Bucs’ key
- Dodgers rough up rusty starter Volquez, knock off Pirates at PNC Park
- Pirates notebook: Polanco, Puig held out of series opener
- Pirates notebook: Huntington staying patient as trade deadline approaches
- Tuesday’s scouting report: Dodgers at Pirates
- Martin’s infectious attitude has helped turn around Pirates’ fortunes
- Polanco turned down multiyear deal worth $75 million with Pirates
- Cutch or Tulo: Who’s the better MVP candidate?
- Report links Pirates first baseman Sanchez to PEDs while in college
- Pirates notebook: Bucs to target pitching on trade market