Pirates’ Joe Musgrove hit hard again in blowout loss to Mets
Perhaps what happened to Joe Musgrove on Sunday at PNC Park was nothing more than a bad night’s sleep leading to a stiff back.
Maybe Josh Bell is right, and he’s not trying too hard, and a good session or two in the batting cage will fix what ails him.
Whatever the reason for the recent failures of two of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ most important players, the team has lost 18 of its past 22 games. The New York Mets pounded Musgrove and relief pitcher Yefry Ramirez with 16 hits — nine for extra bases — in the first seven innings of a 13-2 victory in front of a crowd of 22,716.
Musgrove (8-10, 4.69 ERA) has reached a point this season he never has crossed in his first three seasons. He has pitched 124 2/3 innings, a career high, in barely more than four months. He allowed five or more runs Sunday for the eighth time in 23 starts (third in the past five). He gave up eight runs on 10 hits, including four doubles and two home runs, in 3 1/3 innings.
“At times, the stuff just didn’t have good finish to it, and they took advantage of it,” manager Clint Hurdle said of Musgrove’s efforts. “Some ground balls found holes, but balls found the other side of the fence, too. A combination of everything.”
Musgrove admitted, “Physically, I didn’t feel great.”
That sounds ominous, but he said he’s not worried.
“I don’t know if it was the way I slept (Saturday) night or something, but I was real stiff in my back,” he said. “I wasn’t able to get that last 10 percent of the pitch, driving through the spots I wanted.”
Musgrove is aware he never has pitched this number of innings before this season.
“My goal this year is to make 32 starts and be healthy and take the ball when it’s my turn,” he said. “Knock on wood. I haven’t had anything set that back yet.
“Ultimately, you don’t want to just run out there and pitch to pitch. I want to be successful and provide my team with a chance to win.
“I’m curious (about the ultimate effect from his workload), but I feel real good right now. A few tweaks you have to stay on top of, but this time of year everybody has aches and pains.
“Whatever I felt today is nothing that’s going to be carried over. I don’t see it lingering around for a week.”
Bell’s problems at the plate have lingered for more than three weeks. Actually, since he returned from the All-Star Game.
He is hitting .186 (13 of 70) since the break, dropping his average 20 points from to .282. He has had only two multi-hit games and five RBIs in that time and no home runs since July 5 after hitting 27 to that point. Hurdle pulled Bell from Sunday’s game after he bounced out to first base in his only two at-bats.
“He needs to be off his feet,” Hurdle said. “There comes a point in time when I don’t think there is an upside of continuing.”
Bell said he’s not trying to hit home runs, is not simply trying too hard and will turn around his misfortune.
“I feel like right now, I can’t really put a finger on exactly what it is,” he said. “I feel like I’m sticking to a routine that maybe needs to be tweaked.”
Bell often is his worst critic, but he said he has endured the mental effects of his slump by telling himself to “count your blessings.”
“I’m still able to wake up every day and come to the ballpark and realize where I’m at,” he said. “I had a couple really good months, a couple terrible months in my mind.
“I’m going to prove to myself and the organization what I’m going to be in the future, and it starts (Monday).”
Hurdle said he doesn’t know if Bell is trying too hard.
“I just know he’s not getting the results he wants, and some of the things that were working for him in the first half haven’t played out with any consistency in the second half.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .