In an inning with a grand slam and a two-run home run, it was a walk that did the Pittsburgh Pirates in. In the fourth inning, starting pitcher Wilfredo Boscan engaged in an 11-pitch epic battle — the kind they write songs about — with San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford. Crawford fouled off seven pitches and eventually drew a walk. The next batter the tired Boscan faced, Giants’ left fielder Angel Pagan, hit a grand slam.
That fourth inning only got worse; the first seven batters Boscan faced reached base. The pitcher allowed seven runs, and the Giants went on to beat the Pirates, 15-4.
The loss was the Pirates’ eleventh in 13 games, and Pittsburgh has dropped to 34-37 and to sixth place in the NL wild-card race.
Boscan a stop-gap solution in a desperate situation
When scheduled Pittsburgh starter Juan Nicasio was placed on the restricted list (he returned home to the Dominican Republic to deal with an undisclosed familial matter), the 26-year-old Boscan got the call-up. It was the right-hander’s first major league start — he had previously pitched for Pittsburgh out of the bullpen — and he looked good through three innings, allowing no runs and just one baserunner.
Boscan has been in the minors since 2007. This season with the Pirates’ triple-A affiliate Indianapolis Indians, Boscan posted a 5-5 record, a 3.33 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP.
In Tuesday’s game, Boscan’s struggles started when he loaded the bases and walked a run home in that at-bat against Crawford. After the Pagan grand slam, Giants’ third baseman Conor Gillaspie hit a two-run homer, and, after 31 pitches, Boscan was pulled.
Weird chain of events sees backup catcher striking batter out
Tuesday, the Pirates’ bullpen continued its downward spiral — Arquimedes Caminero allowed three hits and an earned run in two innings, A.J. Schugel allowed three hits and one run and Jorge Rondon allowed six runs on seven hits in 1.2 innings.
But there was one effective relief pitcher: third-string catcher Erik Kratz, who pitched the ninth inning for the Pirates. He gave up two hits but allowed no runs. And, he struck out San Francisco first baseman Brandon Belt on a 70 mile-per-hour pitch.
— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) June 22, 2016
After the game, Kratz said of his outing on the mound, “You just try to enjoy it … and not throw your arm out.”
The whole situation late in the game was something out of a Shakespearean comedy.
Left fielder Starling Marte and center fielder Andrew McCutchen were pulled (Marte due to left foot discomfort), which meant Kratz went in at first base, and starting first baseman John Jaso moved to right field. With Kratz on the mound, fourth-string catcher Jacob Stallings was in the squat, and Chris Stewart
Bottom of the ninth
McCutchen’s struggles continued Tuesday, as the star player went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and was pulled in the sixth inning. This season, McCutchen has a slash line of .241/.319/.407. … The Giants had 22 hits in Tuesday’s game, more than any other team this season. … Giants’ starter Johnny Cueto is a familiar face for the Pirates, previously pitching for the Cincinnati Reds.) Cueto has put up some of the best numbers for a pitcher this year — he had a 2.10 ERA and a 10-1 record coming into the game. … Pittsburgh catcher Jacob Stallings was the lone bright spot for the Pirates, recording his first major league hit — a double off Cueto. Stallings in the son of Pitt basketball coach Kevin Stallings.
Image credit: Keith Srakocic/The Associated Press