CLEVELAND -- After two weeks of just about everything going their way, Wednesday went south for the Pirates from the start. But one loss didn't diminish what they accomplished over the previous 14 days.With their 1-2 punch atop the lineup banged up, Pittsburgh struck out 10 times against Indians starter
CLEVELAND -- After two weeks of just about everything going their way, Wednesday went south for the Pirates from the start. But one loss didn't diminish what they accomplished over the previous 14 days.
With their 1-2 punch atop the lineup banged up, Pittsburgh struck out 10 times against Indians starter Trevor Bauer and snapped its 11-game winning streak with a 4-0 loss at Progressive Field. The Pirates' first defeat since July 10 put them 3 1/2 games out of the second National League Wild Card spot.
The fact that the Pirates are even being mentioned as postseason contenders is a testament to how far they've come, much like their 11-game winning streak -- the second longest in the Majors this year -- served as a reminder of what they can do when they're firing on all cylinders.
"We were playing not our best baseball before, so it just showed us that what we did early in April wasn't a fluke," starter Jameson Taillon said. "We were able to get back to kind of where I thought we were. Maybe we end up somewhere in the middle, but we're definitely not as bad as we were playing there for a stretch. It just proves to us that we're able to play a better quality."
It didn't happen on Wednesday, however, due largely to Bauer and a couple of key injuries. Left fielder Corey Dickerson reported some improvement in his sore left hamstring, which he tweaked on Tuesday, but didn't recover fully enough to play. And after being hit in the left hand by a pitch in the first inning, Starling Marte didn't even make it out to center field.
• Marte exits due to hand discomfort
After trying to lay down a bunt on the first pitch he saw from Bauer, Marte took a 94.6-mph fastball off his left hand. He remained in the game, took his base and was caught trying to steal second. He didn't take the field in the bottom of the first, at which time he was replaced in center field by the recently recalled Adam Frazier. His injury seemed to set the tone for the rest of the game.
"We kind of go as he goes," Taillon said of Marte, who's on a 17-game hitting streak. "It's probably not a coincidence that since his hit streak and his strong play, we've been winning games."
Taillon was the Pirates' silver lining on an otherwise uninspiring day. The right-hander continued a strong stretch on the mound by holding the Indians to two runs on seven hits while striking out five over seven innings. Taillon, who lowered his ERA to 3.73 on Wednesday, hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in a start since May 22.
"He made pitches. As we've talked all along, good pitching stops good hitting," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He was extremely solid off the mound."
Bauer put together his ninth double-digit strikeout game of the season and worked into the eighth inning. The Pirates scored at least six runs in each of their previous seven games, and they outscored their opponents, 73-24, during their winning streak. So it took a performance like Bauer's to finally slow them down and shut them out.
"He does a good job with the tunneling, making every pitch look like it's coming out of the same slot," third baseman Colin Moran said. "You kind of have to make your decisions earlier than against most guys. He had sharp stuff."
Edwin Encarnacion did all the necessary damage against Taillon, ripping a two-run single to center field with two outs in the third inning. That was enough to hand the Pirates their first deficit since the 10th inning on July 15, the last game before the All-Star break.
Setup man Kyle Crick walked Jose Ramirez in the ninth before Yonder Alonso took closer Felipe Vazquez deep to right-center field. Alonso's 418-foot homer ended a pair of lengthy scoreless streaks for Crick (15 1/3 innings) and Vazquez (15 2/3 innings) and put the game out of reach for Pittsburgh.
After a six-day trip through Cincinnati and Cleveland, the Pirates left Ohio on Wednesday night and headed back to Pittsburgh. Their streak may be over, but their confidence has not faded.
"It's rare in baseball to win 10, but who says you can't?" Taillon said. "It kind of threw us right back in the middle of things."
• The Pirates fell short of their first 12-game winning streak since May 21-June 1, 1965. Their 11-game run was the club's longest since Sept. 12-22, 1996.
• Alonso's homer was just the second Vazquez has surrendered to a left-handed hitter in the Majors. The only other lefty to take Vazquez deep is Jay Bruce, who did so for the Reds on June 5, 2016, when Vazquez pitched for the Nationals.
HE SAID IT
"There's no shortfall of gravitas with them. They're playing really well, and you notice that. Their big thing is they're hitting the ball out of the yard. So you watch the first two games, they're super comfortable in the box, super confident, and they're getting their arms extended on a lot of stuff, putting the barrel on balls. Try to adjust. The nice thing about throwing everything is hitters can't hit everything. You get a really good report on them watching them two games in a row, threw the stuff they hadn't seen yet, at least the first time through. I was able to avoid the Falcon Heavy launches today, which were nice." -- Bauer, on ending the Pirates' winning streak
The Pirates will attempt to start a new winning streak as they return to PNC Park on Thursday to begin a four-game series against the Mets. Right-hander Nick Kingham, who is 3-0 with a 2.89 ERA over his last three starts, will start the opener against New York left-hander Steven Matz at 7:05 p.m. ET.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.