And when you don't, when you miss by even the smallest of margins, you get an outing like Brault's 3 2/3-innings learning experience in a 6-2 loss to the Phillies on Wednesday night at Citizens Bank Park. He was hit often and hit hard, allowing five runs (three earned) on nine hits. He struck out three and didn't walk anybody, but the walk-free night demonstrated another lesson about life on a Major League mound.
"Throwing strikes is not good enough," Brault said. "Throwing quality strikes is what we need to do. I'm going to take that and move forward with it, then we'll learn. … It's never fun to get hit around, but we'll learn from it."
After a clean, eight-pitch first inning, Brault found himself struggling to locate his fastball. He threw 20 sliders, according to Pitch F/x and Statcast™ data, and seven of them were put in play with an average exit velocity of 95 mph. Brault said he left too many sliders up in the strike zone when they were supposed to be down and in.
"An inch lower, and it's a swing and miss," Brault said. "That needs to be fixed, and it's something I can do and go forward into the offseason."
It may prove to be important, because Brault could factor into the Pirates' rotation plans next season. Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon look like sure bets to headline Pittsburgh's 2017 starting staff, but several of the rookies getting extended looks this season -- Brault, Chad Kuhl, Tyler Glasnow and Trevor Williams -- could earn spots as well.
The wild card is right-hander Drew Hutchison, who made his second appearance for the Pirates out of the bullpen. Pittsburgh acquired Hutchison in the Francisco Liriano trade with an eye on him joining the rotation next season. He gave up a run on four hits and struck out two in two innings, but there were encouraging moments after a rocky Bucs debut on Saturday.
The Phillies loaded the bases on three one-out singles in the fifth inning. It was shaping up to be the kind of inning that's too often unraveled on Hutchison this season. But he composed himself, struck out opposing pitcher Jake Thompson, got Cesar Hernandez to ground out and stranded the bases loaded.
"I thought the command was better today," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I thought it was a more crisp outing. … I thought there was some improvement."
Hutchison gave up a solo home run to Tommy Joseph in his second inning of work, but he thought the pitch in question -- a fastball down and in, just outside the strike zone -- was where he wanted it. Joseph simply put a good swing on the pitch and crushed it into the left-field seats.
So maybe even a perfectly executed pitch doesn't always work in the Major Leagues.