Williams chased early in Bucs' shutout loss

August 20th, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- As the Pittsburgh Pirates continue to founder through the second half of the 2019 season, one of the top priorities for the club is establishing next year’s starting rotation.

Right-hander , in particular, has struggled in the second half, and that trend continued on Monday when he allowed eight runs (six earned) on six hits and three walks in just two innings as the Pirates were dominated, 13-0, by the Washington Nationals at PNC Park.

Williams’ ERA on the season rose to 5.65 after Monday’s loss, and things have been even more bleak than that of late. Since he returned from a trip to the injured list (due to right side discomfort) on June 19, he has an 8.03 ERA.

In that span, Williams has allowed 16 home runs in 10 starts, with three of those coming on Monday: hit a solo shot on the eighth pitch of the game, added a two-run blast later in the first and deposited a three-run homer to the left-field bleachers with no outs in the second, giving the visiting Nationals an eight-run lead before every fan had even reached their seat.

Williams didn’t discount the trip to the injured list as a possible root of his issues, but he said there’s nothing physically wrong that’s caused the skid.

“Before the injury, it was going pretty well,” he said. “However, I’m healthy. My body feels good. … It’s a game of adjustments. The league is punching back faster than ever.”

Williams has tried numerous strategies to reverse the slide, but as things stand, he doesn’t have any easy answers as to why his fastball command seems to have abandoned him, resulting in mistakes over the heart of the plate that have been hit hard.

“We thought it could have been arm slot, we thought it could have been pitch tipping, a lot of different things,” he said. “What worked for me two years ago might not work for me now.”

With ace out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the Pirates are going to need more than they’ve gotten from starters , and Williams going forward in order to field a competitive staff in 2020.

“It’s important,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “He knows it’s important … This is the real fight at this level that can happen from time to time.”

The Pirates’ offense had nearly as tough of a night, managing just four hits against Washington starter and company. The Bucs have lost three straight and are 4-13 in August.

“It’s a really tough stretch right now,” Williams summarized. “Hopefully, tonight is the bottom.”

It was all a dream

For the Bucs, Monday night’s game was more of a nightmare than a dream. Even individually for pitcher Montana DuRapau, the game was so-so at best.

DuRapau relieved Williams and allowed three runs off four hits over two innings. He struck out four and allowed one walk -- a leadoff pass to Eaton in the fourth, who scored along with on 's two-run double.

But DuRapau did have a good day at the plate. He hit a flare to right in the bottom of the third, breaking up Ross’ early no-hit bid with his first Major League hit in his fourth plate appearance.

“Last night, I literally had a dream I got a base hit,” said DuRapau, a 27-year-old rookie. “It was just kind of a weird feeling that it came to fruition. In the dream, I didn’t give up any runs, so the dream was a little bit better. But yeah, that was awesome. My parents are literally freaking out.”

Playing it safe

Catcher was removed from the game as a precaution after he was struck in the mask in the fourth inning. Hurdle said Diaz will be re-evaluated on Tuesday morning. He was replaced by .