For the forty-first (and last) time in this abbreviated 2020 MLB season, the Pirates lost. This time, they were felled by the playoff-bound Indians, 8-6, at Progressive Park.
It was a meaningful game for the Tribe, because their victory means they’ll get home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs against the Yankees. In a strange way, though, it was also meaningful for the Bucs. As Derek Shelton noted during the game, it would have been very easy for the Indians to field their backups, to keep their regular guys fresh for the first series of the postseason, although starting pitcher Cal Quantrill had already been announced to be on a low pitch count. “We’re playing a playoff team,” he said.
The first inning was marked by Ke’Bryan Hayes’s seventh straight hit after his five-for-five effort last night. JT Brubaker may not be the phenom Hayes is, but he coolly pitched himself out of a jam, striking out Franmil Reyes after hitting Jose Ramirez and giving up a double to Carlos Santana. Santana’s throwing error in the top of the second allowed JT
Riddler Riddle on base, and Frank Gorshin Riddle would get the Bucs on the board first when he scored off a Jose Osuna single.
In the top of the third inning, Hayes smacked one over the center field fence, and Bucs announcer Joe
Buck Block was positively giddy over the Ke’s eighth consecutive hit. I half-expected him to be shown in the studio jumping up and down and squealing like a teenage girl at a BTS show, he was that excited about it. However, the Tribe came back in the bottom of the inning to tie things up, courtesy of a Cesar Hernandez single and a Santana blast to center.
But these are the September 2020 Pirates, who refuse to be daunted. In the fifth inning Osuna homered, Adam Frazier doubled, and Hayes was intentionally walked by rookie reliever Cam Hill in a show of respect, although he’d be thrown out on the same Colin Moran force-out that scored Frazier to make it 4-2 Bucs.
Frazier figured in the scoring yet again in the sixth, as did Osuna and Riddle, who seemed to be trying to give the finger to all the Bucs fans who say they’re terrible. Riddle singled, Osuna doubled, and even Andrew Susac, thown into the Pirate lineup at the last minute, walked. Frazier doubled yet again to score Riddle and Osuna and increase the lead to 6-2. And here came Hayes who ... struck out, with Moran grounding out to end the Bucs side and, as it turned out, the Bucs scoring.
The bottom of the sixth had Reyes homering to bring home Ramirez, who had hit a ground-rule double, and Santana, who had been walked. That was enough for Shelty to take out Brubaker and put in Geoff Hartlieb, who was his usual reliable cleaning-up self.
Nik Turley came into the seventh, and the Tribe immediately reminded him why they’re a playoff team. After hitting Hernandez, both Ramirez and Santana doubled off him, the latter double bringing Hernandez and Ramirez home. Turley then went wild and advanced Santana, who came home on a Reyes sac fly.
Blake Cederland had a one-two-three eighth inning, but in the ninth the game ended for the Pirates in what’s become almost customary. Hayes flew out. Moran struck out, and Josh Bell ended his hitless day by flying out as well. Bryan Reynolds was quiet except for a single that went nowhere.
The Pirates’ season is over, as is Ben Cherington’s tire-kicking. Now let’s see what happens.