Pirates’ pitching problems reach desperate stage in 10-2 loss to Dodgers
Two things were evident Friday night during the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 10-2 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers before a fireworks crowd of 32,388 at PNC Park.
• The Dodgers (33-18) are good.
• The Pirates (25-23) desperately need starting pitching.
Management’s attempt to pull a relief pitcher out of the bullpen to open a game failed miserably for the second time this week when Michael Feliz lasted one-third of an inning and allowed five runs on a walk and four hits, including former Pirate David Freese’s third career grand slam.
Feliz, who said he didn’t know he was starting until he arrived in the clubhouse Friday afternoon, was in the game only long enough to throw 22 pitches to six batters.
With injuries taking Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams out of the rotation indefinitely, the Pirates have used an opener three times since last Saturday. Montana DuRapau did well Saturday in San Diego but struggled Wednesday night. Hurdle’s options are further limited by injuries to relievers Keone Kela and Nick Burdi.
“This wasn’t one of our first thoughts breaking camp,” Hurdle said, “because of the depth of our rotation and the people we had in play.
“It’s an ask. Can some guys do it? Our two guys, I think it was something different for them. More opportunity, maybe they get better. Unfortunately, up here everything is magnified when it doesn’t go well.”
Hurdle said Feliz’s problems centered on pitch execution, getting behind in counts and leaving pitches over the plate.
“They have a dynamic lineup, talented team, a lot of great depth,” he said. “However, you have to make pitches and execute pitches to get outs and, unfortunately, Michael wasn’t able to do either one.”
With a makeup doubleheader scheduled Monday in Cincinnati, the team is out of options on the current roster. Joe Musgrove will start Saturday and Chris Archer on Sunday. Jordan Lyles, who pitched Thursday, is unavailable until Tuesday or Wednesday. The Pirates may need to call up two pitchers from the minors to face the Reds.
“I have to talk to Neal (Huntington, general manager),” Hurdle said. “We’ll just see.”
Steven Brault, who struggled in two previous starts, relieved Feliz and kept the two-time National League champions mostly in check. He allowed three hits and two runs in 52⁄3 innings while throwing 98 pitches.
Brault’s biggest sin was walking Freese and Kike Hernandez back-to-back ahead of Austin Barnes’ double in the third inning.
“The pitch execution was much more collected around the plate,” Hurdle said. “I thought he made better pitches. He mixed his pitches well, threw some really good changeups (including a slow curve that he has been working on recently).
“He kept us in a position of not really putting our bullpen in a very precarious position, which is always appreciated. There was some progress made and there are some things to work on, but it was headed in a much better direction.”
Brault, a starter in the minors, would welcome a berth in the rotation.
“I would hope so, but it’s not up to me,” he said. “We need our starters to go long, and we haven’t been able to do that much. I, obviously, include myself. If I can build on more outings like this, hopefully, they’ll gain that full trust.”
With the Pirates trailing 7-1, more trouble surfaced in the seventh inning after Brault left the game. Chris Stratton retired Max Muncy to start the inning, but after throwing two pitches to the next batter — Joc Pederson — he left the game with right side discomfort.
Stratton, who was acquired earlier this month from the Los Angeles Angels in a cash deal, was replaced by Geoff Hartlieb, who gave up a single to Pederson and Cody Bellinger’s 18th home run of the season.
The Dodgers scored their 10th run in the eighth when center fielder Starling Marte misjudged a low line drive by Pederson and allowed the ball to roll to the wall for an RBI triple. Pirates opponents have scored in double digits in seven of the team’s 23 losses.
The Pirates scored single runs in the second and seventh innings.
In the second, Elias Diaz’s groundball scored Bryan Reynolds, who had singled and moved to third on Colin Moran’s double. The Pirates scored with two outs in the seventh on consecutive doubles by Kevin Newman and Adam Frazier. But after Marte was hit by a pitch, Gregory Polanco popped out to shortstop.
Polanco was 0 for 4, struck out twice and left five runners on base.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .