The Pirates got a strong game from Trevor Williams, but nevertheless lost again to the Giants, 5-3, completing a sweep in Pittsburgh at the hands of the team with the second-worst record in baseball. The culprits were familiar ones: an inept offense and a dumpster fire of a bullpen that the front office seems unwilling or unable to address.
The Pirates chose to field about the weakest lineup they could have assembled, with Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison and David Freese all on the bench. It showed, as they did little with Jeff Samardzija and the Giants’ bullpen, managing just seven hits and zero walks. The Giants’ defense did play a role, especially early. Hunter Pence, in particular, robbed John Jaso (who hit the ball hard every time up) twice, the more impressive grab being a diving catch in right-center with Jose Osuna on third following a two-out triple.
The only damage against Samardzija came the way it usually has for him this year, via the longball. In the fourth, Jordy Mercer lifted a high fly over the left field wall following a Gregory Polanco double. It was Mercer’s eighth homerun. The Pirates did no better against the Giants’ pen, managing just one baserunner in three innings. That came on Jaso’s seventh homerun in the eighth. They had nothing else resembling a rally.
Williams, meanwhile, had another in a string of good starts. He threw shutout ball for six innings, allowing just two hits and no walks, and getting a bunch of groundballs. In the seventh, though, Williams issued his first walk and then gave up a double, to put runners on second and third. With the left-handed Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford due up, Clint Hurdle went to Tony Watson, tacitly acknowledging the uselessness of Antonio Bastardo, who just the same remains on the roster. (But, hey, there are probably a few people out there still clinging to their Enron stock.) Belt and Crawford both lined singles to left, tying the game. An infield hit following a successful challenge by the Giants loaded the bases and a sacrifice fly put the Giants ahead. Edgar Santana entered in the eighth and gave up a two-run homerun to Belt, providing what proved to be the losing margin.
The sweep moved the Pirates a big step closer to being obvious sellers at the trade deadline. It’s getting harder and harder to pretend that the team’s roster has anywhere close to the potential to contend for a playoff berth, even in the greatly weakened NL Central. It’s all the more difficult to maintain that pretense in the face of the inability of the front office to make any progress whatsoever in addressing the crippling weakness of the bullpen.
Next up, the Phillies get to host the Pirates for four games.