Neil Walker homered off Roy Halladay in the first inning, but the Phillies scored in six different innings after that to beat the Bucs 7-3 on Sunday. James McDonald completely fell apart in the fourth and fifth innings and ended up allowing five runs. The Pirates then used every reliever in their bullpen except Joel Hanrahan to get through the rest of the game, and Jose Ascanio and Daniel McCutchen struggled.
I spent the day in the recording studio, so I'm just now catching up on what went on today, but I do have something I'd like to add: the Pirates' bench has to get better. It just has to. I understand there are some guys who are injured, but there's no way things should be this bad. Today's lineup featured Xavier Paul and Josh Harrison as the No. 1 and No. 2 hitters, along with Brandon Wood and Dusty Brown. Wood and Brown are not major-league-quality ballplayers, and Paul only debatably is. The game featured Pedro Ciriaco - he of the .448 Class AAA OPS - pinch-hitting, albeit in a very low-leverage situation, with no one on and two outs. But yeah, here's the play-by-play in that inning:
Pittsburgh - Bottom of 5th SCORE
Roy Halladay pitching for Philadelphia
B Wood struck out swinging.
D Brown struck out swinging.
P Ciriaco hit for C Resop.
P Ciriaco grounded out to shortstop.
0 Runs, 0 Hits, 0 Errors
Just look at those names. Let them sink in. There might have been an inning this year, somewhere in Major League Baseball, in which there was a bigger talent gap between three straight non-pitchers in a lineup and the opposing pitcher facing them. But I dare you all to find one.
I'm fine with the Pirates taking a chance on Harrison, and those are the kinds of players the Pirates should look to add to their bench when something goes pear-shaped at the big-league level - guys who aren't necessarily interesting enough to be concerned about whether they play every day, but who are too interesting or good to languish in Indianapolis while the likes of Brandon Wood and Dusty Brown get playing time.
Now, to be fair, I'm not sure how the Pirates should have avoided putting Brown on the roster. The Bucs went into the season with Brown as their fourth option at catcher, which is perfectly reasonable, and two of the three guys in front of him (Ryan Doumit and Jason Jaramillo) are now injured. That's not the Pirates' fault. But wow are Wood and Ciriaco bad, and yes, I know Wood hit a homer last night and had two hits today.
One of David Todd's big hobbyhorses right now is Alex Presley and why Presley isn't on the roster, and Todd is absolutely right - Presley stands at least some chance of hitting, and he's earned a spot. And there's space for him: he's already on the 40-man roster, and the Pirates are carrying two awful backup shortstops (plus Harrison, a third backup infielder). That would get rid of Ciriaco. Unfortunately, Presley was hit by a pitch yesterday and sat out today, but the Pirates easily could have called him up before that happened.
I'm not really sure what to do about Wood at this point, since Chase D'Arnaud is arguably prospect-y enough that you can make a case for preserving his option and letting him play every day in Indianapolis.
The point, though, is that if I'm in the Pirates' front office, I'm looking at lineups like the one the Bucs ran out today and thinking that something is very wrong there. Hopefully they're looking into ways to improve.