The growing pains of Mitch Keller, the Pirates’ current top pitching prospect a year after Tyler Glasnow had been traded away.
On the good side, Keller struck out eight of the 24 batters he faced, walking just one batter while throwing 67 of 99 pitches for strikes.
The bad news is, eleven of the fifteen batted balls against him fell for hits, and those 99 pitches only got him into the fifth inning, where he failed to record an out. Those hits weren’t a bunch of bleeders and bloopers either, as eight of the fifteen batted batters registered in excess of 95 mph.
The game was close for awhile. Keller had a three up, three down first inning, but gave up a pair in the second on a triple off the right field wall by Rhys Hoskins, singles by Cesar Hernandez and Scott Kingery, and a double by Adam Haseley.
An inning later the Phils extended their lead to 3-0 on Bryce Harper’s single and Hoskins’ ripping double, but the Pirates clawed back to within a run on Josh Bell’s towering two-run homer to left center, his 34th of the year.
Then in fifth, down just 3-2, everything fell apart. Former Buc Corey Dickerson led off with a homer into the left field seats that may have been an out at PNC Park, if the game had been played in Pittsburgh. But then J.T. Realmuto lashed a triple past Jose Osuna in right, Harper lined a single, Hoskins walked and Jean Segura beat out a tapper to third to load the bases. Cesar Hernandez then lined a two-run single to center on Keller’s 99th pitch, sending him to the showers.
Starling Marte blasted his 23rd homer, a solo shot in the sixth, but garbage time reliever Yefry Ramirez coughed up four more Phillies runs over the final four innings to set the final score at 12-3.
With the loss, the Pirates are still in last place, despite winning four of their last six games. They are currently ranked seventh in next year’s draft, a half game behind Seattle and two and a half behind Toronto.
Pittsburgh now travels to Denver, where they will play the Rockies at Coors Field at 8:40 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, with Trevor Williams (6-6, 5.35) set to face right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez (0-5, 6.43)