'Starter Strat' sets tone, bullpen finishes with 'W'

July 13th, 2022

MIAMI -- The Pirates have leaned heavily on their bullpen this season. Their lone All-Star representative hails from the bullpen. So with a vacancy in the starting rotation, the relief corps took over.

In a rare bullpen game, Chris Stratton, Dillon Peters, Tyler Beede, Wil Crowe and David Bednar combined to cover nine innings as the Pirates defeated the Marlins, 3-2, at loanDepot Park on Tuesday. With the win, they notch the first four-game winning streak not just of the season, but of the Derek Shelton-era in Pittsburgh.

“That was fun,” Peters said. “Stratton set the tone tonight, and all the way to Bednar closing the door, that was a lot of fun. We're all pulling for each other down there, because we know there's going to be quite a few of us throwing. Today was a fun day to be a bullpen member.”

For Stratton, in particular, this was his first “start” since April 23, 2019. The role was familiar, given that Stratton has made 41 starts in his career entering play, and Stratton tried to keep his preparation the same. Several members of the team joked with the veteran by calling him “Starter Strat,” and “Starter Strat” certainly set the stone.

Stratton, who even elected to jog out of the bullpen for the first inning, recorded the first seven outs. Peters inherited runners on second and third with one out in the third inning, but escaped the jam allowing only a sac fly, then pitched a scoreless fourth before allowing an RBI single in the fifth. Beede chipped in two scoreless innings. Crowe pitched a scoreless eighth. Bednar shut the door in the ninth.

"That was about as well as we could script it,” Shelton said. “Getting Peters the window and getting him through, and then with where Beede came into the game, I don't think we could have scripted it any better."

Added Marlins manager Don Mattingly: “Those bullpen games seem to go one way or the other. Either they go really good or they go really bad. And obviously tonight, it went pretty good for them.”

This was far from the first time the Pirates’ bullpen has pitched a good chunk of innings. Entering play, Pittsburgh’s relievers had thrown a combined 355 innings, tied for third-most among all teams in baseball. Crowe has thrown more innings than any other NL reliever (50 2/3 innings), and Bednar (42 innings) isn’t too far behind.

The Pirates didn’t have an explosive offensive evening by any means. Jake Marisnick hit his second home run in as many nights, marking the fifth time that he has homered in back-to-back days. Oneil Cruz drove in Diego Castillo with a triple, then Jason Delay subsequently drove in Cruz with a single. On an evening where the bullpen was sharp, those three runs proved to be enough.

"You have to get execution out of all our guys, and we did that tonight,” Shelton said. “Stratton gave us two-plus. Peters came in and was really effective, especially against an all right-handed lineup. Beede was sharp, and we were able to get to the backend and our leverage guys. Everybody did their part."

Now, the Pirates enter Wednesday with the opportunity to go for their fifth straight win, a feat that the club hasn’t accomplished since April 2019. And if Pittsburgh is going to notch that fifth win, the bullpen will, in all likelihood, have their role to play as well.

“Winning is fun,” Stratton said. “You can try to manufacture that however you want, but when you win, that’s when you have the most fun. I think we’re a tight-knit group and we’ve had some ups and downs this year, but hopefully, we can keep on a roll.”