PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates’ lineup returned to full strength on Tuesday, when utilityman Phillip Evans was reinstated from the injured list. One day later, they may be down a key position player once again.
First baseman Colin Moran exited Pittsburgh’s 2-1 loss to the Dodgers on Wednesday at PNC Park in the fifth inning after he was hit by a pitch on his right hand. The 92.7 mph sinker from reliever David Price caught Moran flush on the outside of his hand near his pinky finger. He was replaced by Evans at first base in the sixth.
The Pirates did not provide a specific diagnosis after the game. Moran will be evaluated overnight, and the club expects to provide an update on Thursday.
“It’s frustrating,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “One of our better hitters as our No. 4 overall hitter. … We’ll just have to wait and see what the results are.”
Wednesday marked Moran’s third game since he returned from the injured list with a left groin strain, which put him out of MLB action for nearly a month. The early returns pointed to a solid season for the Pirates’ cleanup hitter, who has an .812 OPS in 35 games, which would stand as his best mark in a full season.
Moran is also vital to the Pirates’ lineup if they want to buck a disconcerting trend from the first two-plus months of the season. Entering Wednesday, Pittsburgh’s offense was last in the Majors in OPS with runners in scoring position (.610). Meanwhile, Moran had a .344/.389/.500 line with one homer and two doubles in 32 at-bats with RISP prior to Wednesday.
Pittsburgh ended its game on Wednesday stranding runners on second and third routinely and finished 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position, the lone hit being Gregory Polanco’s RBI single.
“We’ve created scoring opportunities, and we’ve not gotten the big hit at times,” Shelton said. “And we’ve hit the ball hard. Like tonight, we hit the ball hard three times in those situations and didn’t get a ball to fall, and that’s kind of how the game goes.”
The Pirates have only had their full-strength lineup for two full games this season. From the time Ke'Bryan Hayes went on the injured list on May 3 to Evans’ return on Tuesday, the club has had to make do with an ever-shifting lineup and defensive dynamic.
The Pirates also designated Wilmer Difo for assignment on Tuesday -- their best pinch-hitter and utility man outside of Evans this season -- meaning one utility option to potentially replace Moran is no longer in the fold.
However, the Pirates are still in wait-and-see mode and hopeful one of their most important everyday sluggers will be available for the long haul.
Game of inches
The Pirates were well in Wednesday’s game, and had one ball been well in left fielder Ka'ai Tom’s glove or one ball fallen out of Kenley Jansen’s glove, it would have been a whole new ballgame.
Justin Turner’s second homer of the night, which provided the crucial blow, was tagged to left field, but only narrowly over the short wall. Tom made a leaping attempt and the ball fell directly in his glove, but in his collision with the wall, the baseball shot out and over for a solo blast.
“Ka’ai made a great effort out there,” starter Tyler Anderson said. “At first, I thought he had it. It hit the glove and I was like, ‘Oh man, just popped out.’ But a great effort by him.”
Then in the ninth inning, with Tom on second base, Hayes rocketed a ball right back up the middle that had a good chance of scoring Tom. However, Jansen locked down the save with a quick-twitch reaction and snared the 92.2 mph liner.
“That was fun. That was a quick brush,” Jansen said. “It was kind of a ‘scared for your life’ [situation] and [I] just had the reaction time.”