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6-run 4th not enough as early hole dooms Bucs

June 12, 2018

PHOENIX -- On Monday night, the Pirates collapsed late. On Tuesday, they stumbled out of the gate. Either way, the result was the same, and all too familiar for Pittsburgh.An error-filled, six-run first inning put the Pirates in a big hole and set the tone for a long night at

PHOENIX -- On Monday night, the Pirates collapsed late. On Tuesday, they stumbled out of the gate. Either way, the result was the same, and all too familiar for Pittsburgh.
An error-filled, six-run first inning put the Pirates in a big hole and set the tone for a long night at Chase Field as they lost to the D-backs, 13-8. The Pirates have lost 18 of their last 24 games and eight consecutive series. Pittsburgh put together an unusual six-run rally of its own in the fourth, but the bullpen allowed five runs to negate the Bucs' comeback efforts.
"We've got work to do," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We're not playing at the level we're capable of playing."

After Pittsburgh couldn't score with the bases loaded and one out in the top of the first, Arizona's first four hitters reached safely against struggling starter Trevor Williams on three hits and first baseman Josh Bell's errant throw on a potential double-play grounder in the bottom of the inning. With special assistant Kevin Young at the ballpark this series, Bell said he spent the afternoon working on that specific throw from first. But he bounced it, and Arizona capitalized.
"Should be an easier play," Bell said. "From that point on, it was just downhill."

Ketel Marte pulled a changeup to right-center field with two outs for a two-run triple, giving Arizona a 4-0 lead. The Bucs elected to intentionally walk Jarrod Dyson, and Williams attempted to catch him off-guard with a pickoff throw to first base. But the throw skipped past Bell, letting Marte score. Second baseman Josh Harrison made a wild throw to third -- the Pirates' third error of the inning -- that also allowed Dyson to come home.
Although his defense did him few favors, Williams allowed a career-high-tying eight runs (three earned) on six hits in only three innings. After an excellent start to the season, the right-hander has posted an 8.57 ERA and given up 30 hits in 21 innings over his last five outings.

Williams chalked up his struggles to "a lack of pitch execution." He has been watching film and working with pitching coach Ray Searage in his efforts to regain his early-season form, but he admitted his frustration over the way things have gone recently.
"It's just disappointing. I'm disappointed in myself, it was out of reach within that first inning, letting the team down that way," Williams said. "The past few starts, it's been tough. We're searching. We're looking for it. I look forward to coming to the yard tomorrow and figuring it out."

Starling Marte's three-run homer in the fourth capped a six-run inning and pulled the Pirates within two runs. That rally included three hits, a catcher's interference call, a hit batter, a walk and a sacrifice fly. But it was Marte's eighth homer that gave the Bucs a glimmer of hope. The D-backs answered quickly against left-hander Steven Brault, however, as Daniel Descalso's grounder slipped by third baseman Colin Moran for a two-run single in the bottom of the inning.
Bell was in the middle of the Pirates' subsequent rallies, hitting a double in the fifth that allowed Elias Diaz to score from third on Gregory Polanco's groundout, then driving in Moran with a double to left in the seventh.

"The team did a really good job of picking me up there and giving ourselves a fighting chance," Bell said. "But you spot a team six runs, especially a team as good as they are over there, six runs in the first, it's tough to come back from."
Jonathan Jay's three-run homer off reliever Dovydas Neverauskas in the seventh gave the D-backs a five-run lead, thwarting the Pirates' comeback chances and boosting the Bucs' bullpen ERA since May 18 to 6.09.
"We've got to keep working," Hurdle said. "We've got to play better."
Out of reach: Jay often antagonized the Pirates during his time in the National League Central with the Cardinals and Cubs. Pittsburgh's nemesis was at it again, giving Arizona some breathing room in the seventh with his first home run since joining the D-backs last Friday -- a three-run shot off Neverauskas, who allowed two runs on a hit, a walk and a wild pitch in the eighth inning of Monday's 9-5 loss.
The Pirates were also short-handed in the bullpen, without right-handers Edgar Santana and Kyle Crick, who pitched on Monday, and they didn't want to burn long reliever Tyler Glasnow after using Brault for 66 pitches.
"I keep looking back to how he pitched at Wrigley [Field on Friday], when he mowed through the lineup, one through six," Hurdle said of Neverauskas. "He had a rough night [Monday], so I wanted to give him the ball back."
Jay, who went 3-for-5, entered batting .325 with a .401 on-base percentage in 105 games against the Pirates, but his 386-foot blast off Neverauskas was his first against a Pittsburgh pitcher.

Brault struck out against right-hander Silvino Bracho with one out in the fifth inning, the left-hander's first strikeout in 35 career plate appearances.

The Pirates committed three errors in a game for the first time since Aug. 28, 2017, against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
"It's obviously disappointing. You hate letting the team down after all the fight that they've shown my past few starts. You just hate doing that. It takes a toll on you mentally, but you know that your teammates have your back. You've just got to come out every day, work hard and really fine-tune stuff to flip the switch." -- Williams, on his recent struggles
"It's just tough. You make so many strides forward, you see a play like that, and it kind of reminds me of how I looked a couple years ago. You've got to stick to the fundamentals and continue to work." -- Bell, on his first-inning error
Right-hander Jameson Taillon will take the mound as the Pirates wrap up their three-game series at Chase Field on Wednesday afternoon at 3:40 p.m. ET. Taillon has posted a 2.79 ERA with 19 strikeouts over his last three starts. Veteran righty Zack Greinke will start for Arizona.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.