PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – When Pirates’ starting pitcher Steven Brault walked off the mound at the end of the fifth inning Wednesday night at Wrigley Field, he hadn’t given a good performance by some measures. But, it was at least enough to give his team a chance to beat the Cubs.
Brault surrendered four runs in the second inning, thanks to a three-run home run by Javier Baez and a wild pitch that scored Ben Zobrist earlier in that same at-bat. Four of the seven hits he allowed came in that inning, but otherwise he kept the Cubs off the board and left the game tied at 4. It was the reinforcements behind him that failed to follow suit.
Tyler Glasnow started the sixth inning in relief, but didn’t complete it after allowing four runs on three hits with two strikeouts. Left-hander Josh Smoker came in to get the final out of the inning, but then ran into an onslaught in the seventh as the Cubs tagged him for four runs on five hits, two of them coming on a home run by Mt. Lebanon native Ian Happ.
Dovydas Neverauskus served up Baez’s second home run of the game, and by the time it was all over, the Pirates lost 13-5, with nine of those runs credited to their bullpen. It raised the earned run average of the team’s relievers from 6.03 to 7.51, the worst bullpen ERA in baseball.
While earned run average isn’t as reliable a measurement for relief pitchers as opposed to starters – the Pirates’ starters have pitched nearly twice as many innings so far this season – other numbers also indicate a possible lack of efficiency at collecting outs. The Pirates’ bullpen is walking the third-most batters in Major League Baseball (5.17 per nine innings, or BB/9) and striking out the third-fewest (7.51 K/9).
Of the Pirates’ three losses this season, two have them have come at the hands of the bullpen faltering – setup man George Kontos allowed a three-run home run by Eugenio Suarez to break a 4-4 tie in the eighth inning in their loss to the Cincinnati Reds on April 7. They also haven’t succeeded much at keeping inherited runners from scoring, as told by their 57 percent left on base percentage, also second-worst in baseball.
The Pirates and Cubs will play the rubber match of their three-game series Thursday. Trevor Williams (2-0, 1.59 ERA) will start on the mound for the Pirates against Kyle Hendricks (0-0, 4.09). Second baseman Josh Harrison gets the day off, and Adam Frazier will start in his place.
The Pirates starting lineup will be:
1. Adam Frazier, 2nd Base
2. Gregory Polanco, Right Field
3. Starling Marte, Center Field
4. Josh Bell, 1st Base
5. Corey Dickerson, Left Field
6. Francisco Cervelli, Catcher
7. Colin Moran, 3rd Base
8. Jordy Mercer, Shortstop
9. Trevor Williams, Pitcher