Bullpen, offense waste strong Jordan Lyles start in Pirates loss to Phillies
Jordan Lyles described his most recent start as a “hard-to-get-out-of-bed type outing.”
Lyles pitched well enough for a satisfying night’s sleep Friday. But the Pittsburgh Pirates’ playoff hopes are quickly getting put to bed.
Lyles snapped out of two-month-long funk, but neither the offense nor bullpen provided any support in a 6-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies.
The Pirates have lost six of seven to drop 7½ games out of first place and six games under .500. The lone sliver of an encouragement from Friday was Lyles, who effectively mixed a four-seamer and curveball and had seven strikeouts in 52⁄3 innings, inducing 11 swinging strikes.
“I was really, relaly pleased and proud of his effort,” manager Clint Hurdle said, “the work he has continued to do and stayed steadfast with and being an honest self-evaluator on what he needs to improve upon. He went out there and threw strikes.
“It was a very strong performance.”
Lyles wasn’t dominant — three extra-base hits allowed, including a Adam Heasley solo homer that led off the fifth — but contrasted to how he’d been pitched over his past seven starts (10.13 ERA and 1.051 opponent OPS), it was quite a turnaround.
Five days prior, Lyles was tagged for seven runs in 2/3 of an inning in a loss at Chicago, an outing Lyles speculated might have been the worst of his career.
“Mentally, it’s as tough as it gets,” said Lyles, who looked closer to the pitcher who was 4-1 with a 1.97 ERA through May 17. “…It just wears on you. It’s tough, tough to turn the corner and turn the page and get ready for the next one. That fifth day can’t come quick enough.”
Early on Friday, it looked like more of the same when the Phillies loaded the bases with one out in the first. But Lyles struck out J.T. Realmuto and got Cesar Hernandez to fly out, then struck out the side in the second en route to retiring nine in a row. “I am thankful to be able to bounce back tonight,” Lyles said.
“That’s a game-changer right there, to bounce back, bases loaded, one out, first inning, pitch count real high, we were able to get out of that and then a couple clean innings after that.”
jordan lyles postgame video:
The Pirates – especially late in the game – didn’t do much of that. The Phillies snapped Richard Rodriguez’s 20-inning scoreless streak with a Bryce Harper go-ahead RBI single in the seventh, added a third run on two hits and two walks off Kyle Crick in the eighth and then put up three against Clay Holmes (four hits, a throwing error and a wild pitch) in the ninth. The Pirates entered the break winners in 12 of 17 games and with a dynamic offense (6.6 runs per game,.316 average, .899 OPS in that time), but they’ve turned into a slumping team with a struggling offense (2.7 runs, sub-.245 average, sub-.630 OPS). that produced just one extra-base hit Friday.
The Pirates’ lone run came on an Elias Diaz second-inning single that scored Corey Dickerson. Their best chance to score after that came in the sixth when they loaded the bases with two outs against old nemesis Jake Arrieta. But former Pirates reliever Juan Nicasio came on and got Kevin Newman to weakly ground back to him to end the threat. Newman (0 for 4) had a five-game hitting streak snapped, and Josh Bell went 0 for 3 with a walk in his return to the lineup after Hurdle did not start him in the series finale Wednesday in St. Louis. Dickerson had three hits and Moran two for the Pirates. Rodriguez’s scoreless streak was the longest active one in the majors and longest by a Pirates pitcher this season. His 19 consecutive scoreless appearances were the most since Mark Melancon also went 19 games without allowing a run in 2016. Rodriguez escaped a jam in the sixth when came on and struck out Maikel Franco with two on and two out.
“That’s a heck of a run,” Hurdle said of Rodriguez, “and unfortunately it did come to an end.”
The announced paid crowd of 34,117 had the feel of a 60/40 split of fans from these Pennsylvania-based teams. By the time Philadelphia was knocking around Holmes in the ninth, a majority of those who were left in the seats were wearing Phillies red.
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .