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Bullpen implodes again, Pirates lose to Angels, 5-4

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

A ninth-inning rally came close to bailing out the Pirates' disaster of a bullpen, but a double play ended the threat and the Bucs fell to the Angels, 5-4, on Sunday and lost their third straight series. It was the Pirates' seventh loss in nine games.

The Pirates took a 4-1 lead into the seventh inning, but Gerrit Cole scuffled in his final inning, allowing back-to-back RBI doubles to C.J. Cron and Gregorio Petit before being lifted for Neftali Feliz, who faced one batter to end the inning.

That was all Feliz would work, though, and the suddenly struggling Tony Watson went out for the eighth, promptly giving up a single to new pest Kole Calhoun and a go-ahead two-run homer to ages-old plague Albert Pujols.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth, a Gregory Polanco walk and a Jung-Ho Kang double got the Pirates in business, and Huston Street intentionally walked Starling Marte. That Clint Hurdle stuck with Nap Lajoie Sean Rodriguez with Andrew McCutchen on the bench may speak to any of the following: McCutchen's health, Hurdle's affinity for the mercurial Rodriguez, Hurdle's hubris in general, the pinch-hit penalty, kids who wanted to run the bases after the game, Francisco Cervelli's love advice and probably some other things I'm not thinking of. Anyway, Rodriguez bounced into a 6-4-3 double play to end the game.

Cole was pretty solid most of the day. After giving up this weekend's obligatory first-inning run, he allowed just one hit in the second through the sixth. He struck out four and walked one in 6 1-3 innings.

The Pirates quickly tied it at 1 when Marte drove in Jordy Mercer in the bottom of the first. A bases-loaded walk by Polanco, then a hit-by-pitch by Kang plated two more runs to put the Bucs up, 3-1, in the second, but they left the bases loaded when Marte flew out. A couple baserunners in the fifth didn't lead to anything. In the sixth, Cole singled, moved to third on Mercer's double and scored on a Josh Harrison single to extend the lead to 4-1. With runners on the corners, Kang hit into a double play to end that inning.

The Pirates left 11 on base, but the bigger issue, of course, is with the bullpen. I keep saying it will get worked out, whether through bounce-backs or replacements, of which the Pirates have a few in house. But what do I know?