Pirates' Steven Brault works to emerge from recent struggles
Approached by a group of reporters late Tuesday night, Steven Brault braced for what was coming.
“This should be fun,” the affable Pirates lefthander said, sarcastically.
It usually isn’t when you’re on the kind of run Brault is right now.
Over his past six outings covering these most recent two weeks, Brault has allowed 21 baserunners in seven innings pitched. Things really came to a head Tuesday when six consecutive Washington batters reached against Brault, turning a 2-0 deficit into a five-run laugher for the Nationals.
“Three of the last four outings, his command’s been off,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “I don’t have an (explanation) for it right now.”
Actually, Hurdle was giving Brault too much credit. The lefty has walked seven batters over his past six outings, including at least one in five of the six. Just 56 percent of his pitches have been strikes in that time. Tuesday, he walked three; two on four pitches and two with the bases loaded.
“Right now, the command is not where it needs to be,” Brault said. “And we have been working on just getting the consistency.
“When it comes to command, it’s small, small adjustments that have to be made. It’s not a big mechanical thing, it’s not a big mental thing— it just needs to be looked at, analyzed, and fixed. So that’s what we are going to do (this week).”
Not a moment too soon for Brault if he’s going to hang onto his role in the Pirates’ bullpen.
Brault has been passed by most of the other arms in the relievers’ pecking order. His short outing Tuesday clearly irked Hurdle, who uncharacteristically openly complained that Brault’s poor effort cost him valuable bullpen arms with an early-afternoon game the next day and a six-games-in-five-days stretch ahead.
“Brault was in there to get us some length,” Hurdle said. “…Just a tough outing… It complicates things (in bullpen management).”
The bright side, Brault said, is that what is ailing him is a relatively easy fix: he’s missing low, which is better than missing high or wide.
“It means you’re getting on top of the ball, it means you’re getting a decent release,” he said. “It’s just the full command is not here…
“When it comes down to it, walking guys is about getting ahead of people. People aren’t going to be taking as comfortable as swings or as comfortable of takes when you’re getting ahead. So it’s just important to be in front of hitters, and I haven’t been doing that recently.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.