The Pirates' hole got a little deeper tonight, as they dropped the first game of their six-game homestand, 9-2. With the loss, the Pirates drop back to eight games under .500, 18-26.
With so many of the things that went right in 2013 either absent, or powerfully regressing so far this year, the most eagerly-anticipated season in recent Pirates' history is teetering on the precipice of disappointment.
The best that can be said about tonight's game is that a lifeless malaise has not yet infected the Pirates' fan base or the clubhouse. The fans booed loudly and frequently throughout the night, which is certainly better than resigned boredom that has too often launched inappropriately-timed instances of the wave, or jarring "Woo" cheers, in the past. There is little evidence of panic or frustration among Pirates' players, however. In fact, the clubhouse mood could still be best described as quietly confident.
"I've been around far too long to get too up or too down. We've got to get better," Clint Hurdle said. "This one's done. We're well aware of what we didn't do right, and what we've got to do to get better. We've just got to go out and do it."
Second time through the order
Coming off a strong start in Milwaukee, Francisco Liriano ran into trouble and got beat around in the fourth and fifth innings tonight. His line includes nine hits, two home runs, and six runs allowed.
As has been the case most of the season, Liriano's troubles came the second time through the order. Heading into the game, opposing hitters had a .474 OPS (41 OPS+) in their first plate appearances of the game against him. The second time through the order, they had a .917 OPS (152+ OPS).
Those numbers continued their trajectories tonight. The Orioles went 1-for-9 with three strikeouts the first time through the order, and 4-for-7 with two walks their second time up.
"He was very crisp through the first three innings, struggled with his command in the fourth, and then in the fifth the balls were up and just flat," Hurdle said.
The two home runs Liriano allowed came after he had thrown 34 pitches in the fourth, and during his third trip through the order.
"We're always on red alert when a guy goes 30 or more (pitches), but it wasn't a situation that he hasn't dealt with before, so I sent him back out there and didn't ask him if he was tired or fatigued," Hurdle said. "After the fourth he was ripping and ready to go. He was disappointed that he let them get out on top and wanted to shut them down there."
Right field in May
Leaving aside the question of whether or not Gregory Polanco should be called up, it is worth nothing that Pirates' right fielders are cobbling together a respectable month of May. With Josh Harrison's 1-for-4 night (he did hit into two double plays), Bucs right fielders are now hitting .288/.333/.424 (.757 OPS) as a group this month. The combination of Harrison, Travis Snider and Jose Tabata have also posted a 0.3 WAR, although Harrison's 0.6 WAR accounts for the positive number.
The Chris Davis Show (is back?)
Davis, who is coming off an oblique injury, entered with only three home runs. Tonight he hit his fourth, fifth and sixth of the season. The first one was the game-changer. With Adam Jones on second, Davis pulled a first-pitch slider halfway up into the last section of the right-center field stands atop the Clemente Wall, putting the O's up, 5-1.
Davis said that he felt better heading into tonight's game than he has all season:
"Oh, absolutely. I mean, since this season started. Even in spring training, there were some at bats where I would feel good and have good results, but I just didn't feel like I was right and then obviously with the injury, missing some time coming back, my timing was all screwed up. Like I said, It was frustrating Sunday. I think it was good to have a day off to clear my head. I told Jill today, I'm just going to start all over, I'm just going to start the season over today and it's kinda what I did."