PITTSBURGH -- This year began with bad news for Dario Agrazal. But his season ended with a quality start against the Cubs on the night they were eliminated from postseason contention.
Agrazal will head into the offseason coming off one of his best outings as a big leaguer, a six-inning outing in the Pirates’ 4-2 win over the Cubs on Wednesday night at PNC Park. The rookie held the Cubs to six hits and didn’t walk a batter while striking out five during the Pirates’ longest start since Trevor Williams went six innings against the Marlins on Sept. 4.
“I love the way he pitched today, love the way he pitched today,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “It’s a really fine outing.”
Was Agrazal saving his best for last?
“From a certain point of view, I could say it is [my best start] because it was my last outing of the season and I wanted to finish strong,” Agrazal said through interpreter Mike Gonzalez. “I wanted to finish with a good impression toward my team, my organization and my teammates. To be able to do that, yes, this is not just my best outing but one of my favorites.”
It’s been an up-and-down year for Agrazal, starting with the moment he was designated for assignment and removed from the Pirates’ 40-man roster on Jan. 11. The right-hander stayed with the organization and reported to Spring Training, then began the season with Triple-A Indianapolis.
Injuries created a hole in Pittsburgh’s rotation, and Agrazal filled it by posting a 2.25 ERA in his first five outings -- including four quality starts. But he struggled after that, recording a 7.09 ERA over his next nine outings with a demotion back to Triple-A in the middle of it all.
But Agrazal was back at his efficient best on Wednesday, when the Cubs officially fell out of the playoff race and lost their eighth straight game. He needed only 72 pitches to record 18 outs, using his sinker and slider to quickly get the Cubs out of the batter’s box.
“I believe what gave me success is just being locked in, focused on the plan and just attacking the zone like I was,” Agrazal said.
The Pirates will need rotation help heading into next season, and they’ll likely attempt to address that by acquiring help from the outside. But as this season has proven, they also need quality depth options who can step up when the situation calls for it. Whether he’s in the rotation or waiting in the wings, Agrazal hopes he proved something this season.
“It’s a strong thing, to be able to finish in this way. Especially coming off of Spring Training, going into the season, I wanted to leave a good impression,” Agrazal said. “It was a little bit challenging. However, being able to get another opportunity and come back and prove to the team that I am ready and that I am going to gather all this experience, go into the offseason, build that work ethic as a big leaguer and come into Spring Training competing for that role, hopefully they believe in me and continue providing opportunity. I believe I’m going to be able to accomplish some great things.”
Reynolds exits with injuries
Already thoroughly banged up and finishing the season without several of their best players, the Pirates may have lost another one of their top hitters on Wednesday night. Rookie outfielder Bryan Reynolds, who has been a breakout star for the Bucs this year, exited the game after one inning due to right hamstring discomfort.
Reynolds appeared to tweak his hamstring while running out a ground ball to third base in the first inning. Hurdle did not have an update on his status after the game, saying he would “have to wait and see” on Thursday.
Without Reynolds, Pablo Reyes moved to center field and Kevin Kramer entered the game in left.