At the end of Monday night’s game, Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jonathon Niese’s record stood at 3-2, but that doesn’t tell the story of the game. In the loss to the Cincinnati Reds at the Great American Ballpark, a place where he hasn’t fared well, Niese allowed three solo home runs, but each barely cleared the wall. Those home runs are outs in practically any other ballpark.
Is it alarming that a ground ball pitcher surrendered three long fly balls? Sure. At the same time, though, hard-hit contact is a part of practically every start, and Niese just so happened to get victimized by short dimensions in a home run hitter’s park.
It’s clear that whatever adjustments he and pitching coach Ray Searage are making are helping Niese improve, but the Reds’ ballpark isn’t a great place to really see that. Niese has shown he’s willing to put in the time and effort to get better — after an embarrassing loss to the Chicago Cubs, he wasted no time in going to the tape.
Perhaps better proof of the success of his adjustments will come in this weekend’s start at Wrigley Field.
Niese’s starting spot isn’t in any jeopardy right now, but he still has a lot to learn. That can be a concern for fans who refer to Niese as “Neil Walker’s replacement.” (Walker was directly traded for the former New York Mets pitcher.)
In Monday’s game, if anything, the offense was disappointing and let Niese down. You can blame the ballpark or inconsistent results at Great American Ballpark all you want, but the Pirates didn’t execute on offense.
Fans need to be patient with Niese; this will take time. The Cubs are running away with the division right now, but there are more games to be played and a lot left to fight for.
The series against the Reds continues when Juan Nicasio (3-3 3.16 ERA) faces Cincinnati’s Alfredo Simon (1-3 9.86 ERA) on Tuesday at 4:10 p.m. EST. Nicasio is 1-2 with a 3.76 ERA in eight career appearances (four starts) against the Reds.
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