Pirates may be forced to find alternatives to Steven Brault, Nick Kingham | TribLIVE.com
Pirates/MLB

Pirates may be forced to find alternatives to Steven Brault, Nick Kingham

Jerry DiPaola
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Nick Kingham talks with Steven Brault in the dugout during a game against the Texas Rangers Wednesday, May 8, 2019, at PNC Park.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Nick Kingham talks with Steven Brault in the dugout during a game against the Texas Rangers Wednesday, May 8, 2019, at PNC Park.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage talks with pitcher Nick Kingham during the first inning against the Rangers Wednesday, May 8, 2019, at PNC Park.

When the Pittsburgh Pirates put Jameson Taillon on the 10-day injured list May 4 with an elbow flexor tendon strain, it sounded serious. There was no way he could return in 10 days, or even a month.

The worst fears were realized Monday when Taillon was moved to the 60-day list. That guarantees his absence will stretch into the first week of July — right in the middle of a crucial seven-game homestand with the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers and immediately before the All-Star break. Trips to Chicago and St. Louis follow the four-day break.

Taillon’s absence, coupled with Chris Archer’s thumb injury, weakened the strength of the team — the starting rotation — and forced Steven Brault and Nick Kingham to start two games. The results haven’t been good. Their total numbers in two starts each have been equally bad.

Brault, a starter throughout his minor-league career, has worked 7 2/3 innings in his past two starts, allowing 11 hits (three homers), eight runs (all earned) and five walks. He also hit a batter. The Pirates won both games by scoring 15 runs.

Kingham, who said he prefers starting, has surrendered 13 hits (two homers), nine runs (all earned) and four walks in eight innings. The Pirates lost both, 9-6 and 9-3. The lineup isn’t strong enough to withstand sustained failure among the starters.

What’s next?

More uncertainty with two of the other four starters — Joe Musgrove and Chris Archer — going to the mound Tuesday and Wednesday against the Arizona Diamondbacks with question marks hovering over their heads.

Musgrove’s ERA has risen from 1.54 to 4.20, thanks to his two most recent starts. Archer hasn’t pitched since April 26 while recovering from a thumb injury.

Trevor Williams and Jordan Lyles have no issues, but after those four pitch the next four nights in Arizona and San Diego, that leaves a weekend game for a fifth starter (Brault or Kingham, unless Neal Huntington bites his lower lip and brings up Mitch Keller from Triple-A Indianapolis).

Clint Hurdle likes to say that no one will feel sorry for the Pirates in their current predicament, and he’s right. The schedule offers no relief. After Monday’s off day, the Pirates play 14 games in 13 days, including a Memorial Day doubleheader in Cincinnati.

This is a crucial point in the season, with the Pirates only one game out in a tight National League wild-card chase. That’s a nice cushion to have while waiting for Taillon’s return, but unless Huntington finds a fifth starter, it could be gone well before the 4th of July.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Pirates
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