The Pittsburgh Pirates’ reaction to Tuesday night’s 5-2 loss to the Seattle Mariners can best be summarized by something simple: a hung head.
Pittsburgh starter Jon Niese hung his head after Seattle’s Nelson Cruz hit a towering home run, the 19th homer the Pirates starter surrendered this season. Cruz’s ball stayed just fair, flirting with the left field foul pole and giving Cruz 20 home runs for the eighth consecutive season.
Nelson Cruz. Mercy. https://t.co/AXrfmh9oDy
— Mariners (@Mariners) June 29, 2016
Pirates DH Gregory Polanco hung his head after he was called out looking in the top of the eighth inning. Polanco was 2-for-2 with a run scored coming into the at-bat before home plate umpire Ben May signaled a third strike.
Toward the end of the game – Manager Clint Hurdle and hitting coach Jeff Branson each likely hung their heads – but they had had to do so in the clubhouse. Branson was ejected by May for arguing balls and strikes. As Branson prepared to depart the Pirates dugout, Hurdle talked to May and was ejected very shortly after.
Recently, the Pirates have felt they have been squeezed in regards to the strike zone, and this is the latest protest of that. This past weekend, Andrew McCutchen was ejected while correctly arguing a strike three call and slammed down his helmet in disgust.
Niese (6-6) did a lot of the damage on his own. After allowing a leadoff single to center fielder Leonys Martin in the third inning, left fielder Shawn O’Malley then hit a ground ball that played as a bunt to Niese. Niese had a play on it and did not make a good throw, allowing both runners to advance. A sacrifice fly later scored a run.
Another sac fly scored a second run, but it was the fifth inning that proved disastrous for Niese.
It appeared that Niese would have a relatively easy inning when he retired the first two batters. He had right fielder Franklin Gutierrez at a 1-2 count before losing him, throwing balls with each of the next three pitches. A wild pitch advanced Gutierrez to second base, and he scored when Robinson Cano singled.
Then came the Cruz home run, followed by a first-pitch single by Seattle first baseman Dae-Ho Lee and a full-count single from Kyle Seager. After that, acting manager Dave Jauss had seen enough and took the ball from his starter.
Niese was just one pitch away from extending his outing to the next inning. Instead, he found himself going back to the dugout to sit on the bench for the rest of the game after giving up three runs and allowing five baserunners.
Pittsburgh Arquimedes Caminero eliminated the possibility of any further damage over the next 2.1 innings, but it was too late.
The Pirates attempted a comeback in the seventh inning, capitalizing on a leadoff double from Polanco. Left fielder Starling Marte plated him with a one-out triple, and third baseman David Freese’s single brought a second run home – but this was all the Pirates could do against Hisashi Iwakuma (7-6) and the Mariners.
Now at 37-41, the Pirates will have to look for a win to avoid an abbreviated series sweep. Pittsburgh rookie Jameson Taillon (1-1, 4.50 ERA) will face Seattle’s Wade Miley (6-3, 5.28 ERA) today.
Image credit: @Pirates