Ivan Nova was ineffective against San Diego’s inexperienced lineup and the Pirates were dominated by Dinelson Lamet as the team sunk further into obvious sellerdom with a 4-2 loss to the Padres.
Nova’s recent struggles continued in the first inning. With one on, Jose Pirela lined a triple just out of Adam Frazier’s reach and Hector Sanchez ripped a double into the right field corner. That made it 2-0. The Padres continued hitting Nova hard as Hunter Renfroe doubled in a run in the fourth and Manuel Margot went deep in the fifth.
Meanwhile, the Pirates’ increasingly inept lineup was completely outmatched against a rookie pitcher who came into the game with an ERA barely under 6.00. The only saving grace was that it took Lamet a lot of pitches to rack up strikeouts against hitters who flailed helplessly at all three of his pitches, fastball, slider and change. Starling Marte, in particular, was repeatedly victimized by sliders, whiffing in all three at-bats against Lamet.
The Pirates didn’t even manage a hit until the fifth inning, when David Freese and Frazier led off with singles. That threat effectively ended when Francisco Cervelli lined into a double play. The Pirates finally saw the last of Lamet when he hit Andrew McCutchen and walked Josh Bell to start the seventh. By then, Lamet had fanned seven and allowed just the two hits. Freese greeted reliever Craig Stammen with a single to drive in McCutchen and Frazier singled to load the bases, but Cervelli grounded into a double play, which scored a run but put the rally on life support. After a walk, Jose Osuna fanned to kill it.
Wade LeBlanc, Tony Watson and Juan Nicasio did a nice job of locking the barn door. The Padres’ bullpen, though, blew the Pirates away over the last two innings. The Pirates fanned 11 times in the game and got only five hits, all singles, giving them just 13 total in their last three games.
The loss was the Pirates’ sixth in seven games, including four of five against two of the NL’s weaker teams. What’s more, their offense has struggled badly for some time except for a couple of isolated outbursts. Even during the team’s hot streak, a great deal of the offense came from a handful of well-timed and well-placed bloops. Despite the nice run they had, it’s becoming very hard to make a case for the team being buyers in the two days of shopping that are left. The Pirates now stand five games out of first with three teams ahead of them. They’re nine games out of the wild card with four teams ahead of them and three others a game or less behind them.