Pirates show little fight in home loss to Mariners
If the Pittsburgh Pirates’ hearts and heads were somewhere other than PNC Park on Tuesday night, no one should be surprised.
On a day when Felipe Vazquez, the team’s best pitcher, was arrested on child solicitation charges, the Pirates put up little resistance in a 6-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners in front of an announced crowd of 10,933.
Nonetheless, losing pitcher Mitch Keller (1-5) said he was focused throughout each of his 95 pitches over five innings.
“Definitely a weird situation throughout the day,” he said. “But once the game comes, everyone’s focused on the game and focused on what’s going on out there, trying to compete and do the best that we can. You have to put it aside for that game.
“When I was out there, the thought didn’t cross my mind.”
Focused or not, the Pirates (65-86) have lost four in a row, giving up 53 runs in those 33 innings.
The Mariners (63-88) came into the game with more losses than the Pirates, but they extended their winning streak to three in a row.
Keller allowed only two runs and improved his ERA from 8.29 to 7.74 while striking out seven batters. In his quest to build confidence for the off-season and 2020, Keller has struck out at least seven batters in four of his past five starts.
“The last game in San Francisco, I had quite a bit of strikeouts (seven),” he said, “but I also gave up a lot of two-strike hits. When I have two strikes, put them away and (don’t) give them something good to hit.
“I thought I did that pretty well (Tuesday), except for the sac fly (in the first inning). I was trying to bury a curveball. He (Dee Gordon) kind of stuck his bat out and got enough of it to score a run.”
The Mariners only other run off Keller was set up by starting pitcher Marco Gonzales’ leadoff double in the fifth. Playing without the designated hitter, Gonzales recorded his first hit of the season in his third at-bat.
Keller left his teammates only a 2-0 deficit, but relief pitcher Michael Feliz allowed back-to-back home runs in the sixth to Omar Narvaez and Austin Nola. The Mariners’ Shed Long homered against Williams Jerez in the seventh.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was encouraged by Keller’s effort.
“I thought he did some things better tonight,” he said. “No multiple-run innings.
“The curveball played throughout the game. He got four strikeouts on the curveball and he got a strikeout on a changeup as well. The four-pitch mix was in play.
“The fastball showed good life at the top of the zone and he threw a couple really nice (pitches) down and away with really good angles. I think there were a number of positives to pull away from it.”
Hurdle couldn’t say the same for his hitters.
Through seven innings, the Pirates were unable to solve Gonzales (16-11), who allowed only six hits and did not walk a batter while lowering his ERA to 4.14.
Due to a string of recent injuries, the Pirates were functioning with a depleted lineup. Starling Marte (wrist), Josh Bell (groin) and Jacob Stallings (back spasms) did not play, and Hurdle didn’t indicate when they might return to the lineup.
After the game, he was in no mood to make excuses for his team.
“We need to show up in that (batter’s) box,” he said. “Each man gets an opportunity to go up there three, four times a night. That’s the ownership you have of your at-bats.
“We saw some adjustments made from some guys and some guys weren’t able to capitalize in a couple situations where we had some guys on.
“You do the best you can with what you got with where you are.”
The Pirates had a total of only eight hits, seven of them singles.
Two of those successful hitters, Erik Gonzalez and Kevin Newman, were thrown out trying to steal second. As a result, only three Pirates advanced as far as second base.
Gonzalez started in center field for the first time in his major league career. Hurdle said Gonzalez was his fourth choice after Marte, Pablo Reyes (paternity leave) and rookie Bryan Reynolds, who has played in 127 of 134 games since he was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis on April 20. He was given the night off after his batting average dipped to .322 in his quest to win a National League batting title.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .