PITTSBURGH -- On Thursday, the Pirates had a huge seventh-inning rally to propel a victory, but on Friday, a rally that began with two outs in the sixth inning fizzled out, and Dillon Peters faced his first tough inning as a Pirate in a 4-3 loss to St. Louis at PNC Park.
The Pirates, who honored the Homestead Grays with their throwback uniforms on Friday, had a few positive signs, but a couple of areas in need of cleaning up stood out. Here are three takeaways from a tight loss:
Peters out after pounding zone
Peters has had some strong outings to begin his tenure with the Pirates, but his biggest test came in the fifth inning of Friday’s game.
The left-hander, facing a heavily right-handed and switch-hitting lineup, afforded three doubles and a two-run homer to the Cardinals after affording only three baserunners through his first four innings. Harrison Bader got to a high changeup for a run-scoring double, then Edman cranked a 1-0 fastball to left field on what Peters called a missed location over the inner half of the plate.
"That guy has got a pretty sneaky fastball so I wanted to make sure I stayed short,” Edman said, “especially with that runner on third base, and he left one in the spot I was looking for."
However, for the most part, Peters’ combination of his fastball and changeup, which he threw for his most offerings on the evening, was effective once again.
“I just try to move my fastball around the zone, and that changeup looks appetizing,” Peters said. “It’s got some fade and some run, and just trying to get off the barrel. I think it helps my fastball play up, and the changeup plays off the fastball, so back and forth we go.”
Tsutsugo’s odd day
Yoshi Tsutsugo made his first start in right field as a professional in the States, and it didn’t go quite as planned, though he still made an impact on the game.
Two batters into the game, Tsutsugo made his first misplay on a rocketed ball off the Clemente Wall from Paul Goldschimdt. He tracked all the way back to the wall without making a jumping attempt for the ball well over his head, and the ball caromed off toward center where Ben Gamel cut it off and threw it back in.
The 29-year-old showed his resolve by going all out for a foul ball struck by Goldschmidt in the fourth inning, as Tsutsugo flew over the railing without making the catch. Then, a slight hesitation at the warning track on a ball struck by Paul DeJong allowed the Cardinals’ shortstop to turn a double into a triple, and the next at-bat, a run scored on a sac fly.
“The first carom, I don’t think there was anything anybody could have done, as high up as it hit,” manager Derek Shelton said. “Then it kicked straight back towards Gamel. It’s a challenging place to play. The more he plays out there, the better he’ll get at it.”
It’s his first start there in a unique right field at PNC Park, but it’s worth keeping an eye on how many opportunities he will get in that corner when Gregory Polanco gets the day off.
Nevertheless, Tsutsugo made up for the one run he may have contributed to with an RBI triple.
The Pirates scored eight runs on eight hits without recording an out in the seventh inning on Thursday night, but they had no such luck in coming close to a big inning on Friday.
Pittsburgh had a shot in the sixth inning, but two quick outs made it tougher to manage. A single and three walks, including a bases-loaded free pass drawn by Kevin Newman -- who has the third-lowest walk rate in the National League (5%) -- set up Anthony Alford. However, the left fielder, who owned a 53.7% strikeout rate this season entering Friday, swung through for his second strikeout in a row.
But Alford made up for that by lining a leadoff single in the ninth with the Pirates down by a run, then stealing a base with one out off the lethal arm of Yadier Molina to get into scoring position. Gamel went down looking on a middle-cut slider, then Ke’Bryan Hayes grounded out weakly.
It’s encouraging that Pittsburgh is giving themselves a lot of RISP situations to hit in after beginning August with a 2-15 record, with two or fewer runs scored in 10 of those contests. Now, they need the big hit.
“We had opportunities to score, and we just did not break this game open,” Shelton said.