PHOENIX -- The Pirates received a trademark performance from Tyler Anderson on Tuesday night at Chase Field that set the team up to preserve its top bullpen arms.
Instead, the relief corps melted down in the seventh inning, allowed the D-backs to send 13 batters to the plate and score eight runs to cruise to an 11-6 win over the Pirates.
Anderson began the game with three perfect innings on 28 pitches, then had to work out of some tight jams in the fifth and sixth innings before ending his night with three runs allowed on 77 pitches and a 5-3 lead.
However, manager Derek Shelton said he and the staff noticed a bit of a change in Anderson’s delivery in the sixth inning, when he gave up his third and final run to the D-backs on a Christian Walker double. With the timing slightly off after he had been strong early, not to mention the fact that he was pitching on 10 days’ rest out of the All-Star break, they were concerned about him beginning to tire.
“He was missing high and to his arm side with the fastball,” Shelton said. “His arm just wasn't catching up. That's a sign of fatigue right there.”
“With that, pitches were non-competitive,” Anderson said. "They were in the general direction of where I wanted to go, but just non-competitive in terms of execution, which leads to that [leadoff] walk and 3-0 count to Walker.”
With four of the next five batters due up for the D-backs in the seventh being either lefties or from switch-hitters, Shelton had two left-handed options in the bullpen: Chasen Shreve, who had pitched in three of the past four games, or Austin Davis.
Shelton turned to Davis, but the execution just wasn’t there. Davis allowed the first four batters to reach on two walks, a single and a triple before recording an out.
“It looked like he was missing off the plate against his arm side, and when you do that, it gives you issues,” Shelton said. “And because we weren't on the plate, we ended up not getting those left-handers out."
Clay Holmes relieved Davis with the score locked at five to try to use his heavy sinker to induce a double play, but things went even more awry for him. Holmes faced eight batters and gave up four runs -- the same as Davis ended up charged with -- to cap a run of 13 batters and eight runs afforded in the seventh, all but sealing the Pirates' fate on the night.
"We've talked about the execution of pitches, and we come in and give free passes out,” Shelton said of what has caused some recent bullpen issues. “When we're ahead in the count, we're putting balls in the middle of the plate. You cannot do that.”
Nogowski gets No. 1
The latest chapter in the local legend of John Nogowski was a loud one.
Raking at the plate to begin his Pirates tenure after a stint with St. Louis, Nogowski had yet to hit an MLB homer in 31 big league games before he stepped up to the plate in the fifth inning. After working a 2-1 count against Taylor Widener, who began his start with seven strikeouts in three scoreless innings, Nogowski got a middle-cut slider. The ball curved out to left field a Statcast-estimated 387 feet, landing a few decks beyond the outfield wall and into the glove of a fan.
“I feel like I’ve gotten some balls pretty well in Pittsburgh, too, that didn’t quite get out,” Nogowski said. “So I was busting it, and I was telling [third-base coach Joey Cora] it was going to be a triple out of the box. I was busting it, but I was excited to see it get over.”
The big swing had been elusive for Nogowski in his first few weeks in Pittsburgh, but not hits in general. The first baseman entered the game batting 19-for-45 (.422) with four doubles, making it hard for Shelton to keep him out of the lineup.
“Pinch-hitting is tough … and it’s tough to put up numbers,” Nogowski said of his limited opportunities with the Cardinals. “I think that getting in there every day is kind of giving me some rhythm and some comfortability in the box.”
Pirates fans are noticing, too, as he’s been a big topic of conversation recently. “The Big Nogowski” ignited a confrontation with Marcus Stroman of the Mets on Friday. He had a three-hit and four-hit performance within his first four games as a Pirate. With Colin Moran on the injured list, Nogowski has given the Pirates a lot to like about his everyday performance.
“The guy is unbelievable, man,” Jacob Stallings said of Nogowski on Saturday. “It’s just one of those things. You think it’s going to stop, then he gets two more hits the next day and has good at-bats.”