Gerrit Cole gave up four runs, Jared Hughes and newcomer Curtis Partch gave up three more, and the Pirates' offense wasted opportunities in Sunday's 7-3 loss to the Reds.
The Reds took an early lead as Cole walked Billy Hamilton and Joey Votto, and both came around to score. Hamilton was the key to another Reds run in the third, as he doubled, stole third, and came home on Votto's sacrifice fly.
The Pirates got one back on a 442-foot blast by Matt Joyce, his 12th homer in what has been an incredible season. But Cole allowed another run in the top of the sixth before giving way to Antonio Bastardo. Cole ended his outing having struck out six and walked three.
The Bucs scored a run in the bottom of the inning on Josh Harrison's fourth homer of the season, but the Reds opened the floodgates against the weak end of the Pirates' bullpen in the seventh. Hughes -- who has now given up 45 hits and 14 walks in 36.2 innings this season, allowed a series of singles, including one that scored a run. After Partch relieved him, Jung Ho Kang's error at third led to another run, and a third scored on Partch's wild pitch. Looming large in this inning, as with at least a couple others today, was Hamilton, who scored the third run -- he's a terrible hitter, but when he reaches, he's absolutely toxic. Today he stole four bases and created tons of problems for the Pirates.
Raisel Iglesias entered in the bottom of the seventh and promptly walked Joyce, Kang and John Jaso to load the bases. Jordy Mercer brought home a run with a force out, and Francisco Cervelli loaded the bases again with a two-out single. Harrison hit a deep drive to left and nearly tied the game with his second homer of the day the ball went foul, and he ended up striking out. The Bucs also put two men on to start the ninth (one of those men being Andrew McCutchen, who appeared to stare at a heckling fan while he was running to first on a single, then made some sort of gesture to the fan upon reaching the bag). But Joyce, Kang and Jaso went down in order from there. In the ninth, Mercer hit a leadoff single, then inexplicably got himself picked off with his team down four runs.
The Bucs managed to cluster many of their baserunners today and hit two home runs, but still didn't manage much offense. That they recorded only six hits against a weak pitching staff (and allowed mediocre starter Dan Straily to take a perfect game into the fourth) didn't help.
At this point, watching these games, it's hard to avoid the conclusion that this team simply isn't that talented. Good players like McCutchen and Kang aren't playing nearly well enough to carry them, and some complementary players, guys like Jaso and Hughes, aren't capable enough for their limited roles, either. The Pirates have had numerous opportunities in the past couple weeks to make noise against weak competition, and they've struggled to string together wins, despite winning their first two games this series. That probably isn't an accident. It's strange to think they're still in the hunt for a Wild Card berth. Last year, the Wild Card didn't seem good enough for them. This year, it's the other way around.