A day after the unmitigated buffoonery of a 12-1 blowout, the Pirates reverted to more subtle forms of incompetence in an extra-inning loss to the Dodgers. In the process, they returned to their standard format of undermining some gutsy pitching performances with offensive and defensive blunders.
Ivan Nova gave the Pirates his usual high-quality performance, even though he didn’t have the exceptional command he’s shown all year. He still got through the first three innings with just two hits and a walk allowed. In the fourth, though, he walked Cody Bellinger to lead off, got a line out, and then surrendered a two-run HR to Yasmani Grandal after falling behind 2-0.
Meanwhile, the Pirates had about as much success against Julio Urias’ outstanding stuff as you’d expect from a lineup that couldn’t handle the likes of Zach Davies. Urias breezed through the Pirates with none of the command issues he showed in his other two starts this year. It wasn’t the whiff-fest of the previous night, but there was almost nothing hit hard.
Urias, in fact, allowed no hits through six. The Pirates’ only “opportunities” came on a leadoff walk to Gregory Polanco in the second — he actually got all the way to second on a ground out — and a one-out walk to Chris Bostick, who battled Urias through a good at-bat. Bostick, though, was wiped out easily on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play when Gift Ngoepe fanned. It was an amazingly stupid play, completely in character for the Pirates this year. Grandal had thrown out half of the runners who’d attempted to steal on him coming into the game, and the double play left the exceptionally weak-hitting Nova to lead off the following inning.
Nova hung tough in the fifth after the first two batters reached, starting with Urias beating out a bunt toward an unsuspecting Josh Harrison. Nova got a fly out, line out and ground out to work out of it. He got through the sixth as well, still at 86 pitches, more than his usual but good just the same.
The Pirates got rid of Urias, and also got some help from the Dodgers, in the seventh. Andrew McCutchen broke up the no-hitter with a book rule (Why do people still not know this?) double into the corner in left. After Polanco lined out, the Dodgers oddly put in the struggling Sergio Romo, even though the entire rest of their bullpen has been blowing everybody away. Romo fanned Josh Bell, who was batting for Jose Osuna, but Francisco Cervelli doubled in McCutchen on a line drive that left fielder Enrique Hernandez lost in . . . uh, something, because it wasn’t high enough to get lost in the lights. Then Max Moroff, batting for Bostick, blooped his first career hit to left off Luis Avilan for his first career RBI. (Avilan has always been used as a LOOGY, although he’s pretty good against right-handed hitters, so why did the Dodgers bring him in when a switch hitter was already at the plate?) Moroff unfortunately marred his big moment, in true Pirate-like fashion, by getting picked off.
In the bottom half of the inning, Nova gave up a leadoff double to Chase Utley, who was hitting .098 at the time. After the Dodgers bunted Utley to third, Clint Hurdle put Felipe Rivero in to face the left-handed Corey Seager. Rivero plunked Seager with a 1-2 pitch, but then threw Utley out at the plate on a comebacker by the heavy-hitting Justin Turner. Then he fanned the even heavier (so far) hitting Bellinger, with one of the strikes topping 100 mph, keeping the score tied.
Something unlikely happened in the top of the eighth. Against the tough Pedro Baez, John Jaso hit a pinch-hit HR, his second longball of the season, just clearing the fence in right. In the bottom half, Juan Nicasio gave up a two-out double, then struck out Yasiel Puig only to have Puig reach base on a passed ball by Cervelli. Hurdle put Tony Watson in to face right-handed pinch hitter Franklin Gutierrez, another very hot Dodger hitter, but Watson (and Cervelli) got the strikeout.
The Pirates’ talent for beating themselves surfaced again in the ninth. Watson suffered his first blown save on three straight, one-out singles. It’s hard to blame him, though, as Polanco should have caught the second one and the third was a weak grounder by Bellinger that barely trickled through into right. A double play sent the game into extra innings, with Mercer making a remarkable, short-hop pickup and pivot on a bad throw by Watson.
After a quick top of the tenth, Daniel Hudson gave up a leadoff single, got two strikeouts, and then allowed a walkoff double to Austin Barnes. That sent the Pirates to their third straight loss. Chad Kuhl will have the unenviable task of trying to avoid the sweep tomorrow night.