On Thursday night, the Pittsburgh Pirates (4-16) and Cleveland Indians (15-9) met for the final game of their three game series at PNC Park in Pittsburgh. The Pirates entered the night 2-8 over their last 10 games, while the Indians came in 7-3 over their last 10. It would be a tall order for the Pirates’ Trevor Williams (1-3) and Pittsburgh’s offensive lineup to match Cleveland’s Shane Bieber (4-0).
Apart from an error during Kevin Newman’s at bat, both the Pirates and Indians navigated the first inning smoothly. Cleveland would open up the scoring in the top half of the second inning. An infield single off the bat of Franmil Reyes followed up by a Tyler Naquin base hit into left field set the table for the Indians to try to push a run across. Domingo Santana lined out for the second out, but Williams wasn’t able to skirt danger, as Beau Taylor singled to center to make the game 1-0.
In the top of the fourth inning, it looked as though the Indians were set to strike again. With the bases loaded and only one out, Cesar Hernandez took his turn at the plate but was called out on strikes before Jose Ramirez flied out to left.
Williams would only last four innings before making the way for relief pitcher Sam Howard, who ultimately pitched a scoreless fifth. It took Williams 90 pitches to get through four innings of work. He finished with six hits allowed, one run, five strikeouts, and a pair of walks.
On the other hand, Bieber continued to be the pitcher we’ve come to see over the course of 2020. He managed six scoreless innings, allowing six hits, picking up 11 strikeouts and managing to not walk a single Pirate batter en route to earning his fifth win of the season.
But it wasn’t without a little bit of drama. To begin the bottom of the sixth inning, Newman singled for the Bucs followed up by a Josh Bell single. Bieber subsequently struck out the next two batters before getting JT Riddle to fly out to shallow right field, keeping the Pirates just at arm’s length, 1-0.
Brandon Waddell made his second appearance in the major leagues and tossed two scoreless frames, walking a pair but not allowing a hit.
When old friend Oliver Perez made his appearance in the bottom of the seventh inning, he quickly picked up the first two outs. But then Jacob Stallings hit an 0-2 pitch deep down the left field line — a ball that was hooking — and was deemed foul.
Stallings was convinced the ball went fair and the Pirates opted to challenge the play. The ball passed just left of the foul pole and then hit a wire on its way down, which was what had convinced Stallings the ball was fair. He then popped a blooper into shallow right, which signaled the end of the Perez’s night, making way for Nick Wittgren. Gonzalez ended the inning on a 4-3 putout.
Once Chris Stratton entered the game in the eighth, things looked as though they might fall apart a bit for the Pirates. A carousel of baserunners became the theme of the inning. A walk, a single, and a walk before a fielder’s choice error by Josh Bell led to a 2-0 score.
With the infield in and Bradley Zimmer at the plate, Erik Gonzalez fielded a ball behind the mound and fired to Stallings for the force out. A strikeout of Hernandez put Stratton in a position to mitigate damage in the inning with Jose Ramirez due up as the bases remained loaded. With a grounder picked up and fired to first, the Pirates headed to the bottom of the eighth trailing 2-0.
The Indians’ James Karinchak — a brilliant hockey sounding surname — pitched a scoreless bottom of the inning, paving the way for Nik Turley to pitch a ninth inning in which the Pirates needed to keep the game close if they were to have any chance in the bottom half of the inning. Turley did just that, getting the Indians to go 1-2-3.
Brad Hand was the choice out of the bullpen to close the game. The lefty entered the game having made eight appearances and wrestling with a 5.40 ERA. Bryan Reynolds was caught looking, Cole Tucker flied out to right, and John Ryan Murphy was called out on strikes, securing a 2-0 Cleveland victory.
The Pirates dropped to 4-17 on the season, while the Indians improved to 16-9 by way of the series sweep. Pittsburgh hosts the Milwaukee Brewers over the weekend. Game one is Friday night with a 7:05 scheduled first pitch.