Pirates seek to end skid: 'We’re going to make adjustments.'

April 21st, 2024

PITTSBURGH -- After Reese McGuire snared Rowdy Tellez’s fourth inning popup behind the plate, the Pirates' first baseman grabbed the barrel of his bat with both hands and slammed it to the ground, handle first. As he started his walk back to the PNC Park home dugout, he snapped the splintered lumber like a branch.

That wasn’t the only display of frustration Saturday afternoon in the Pirates’ 4-2 loss to the Red Sox. Mitch Keller was seen smacking his glove into the bench several times after exiting in the sixth inning. Derek Shelton was tossed in the ninth after Michael A. Taylor was charged an automatic strike three for not being set up in the box at the pitch clock’s eight second mark.

Irritation is expected when a losing streak hits five games, especially with how the offense has performed of late. During this streak, the Pirates have scored just eight runs. While they managed nine hits Saturday, they stranded eight men on base and went just 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

“Right now, we’re in that stretch where even when we create opportunities we’re not cashing in on them,” said Shelton.

After failing to generate many run-scoring opportunities in the previous Mets series and their loss to the Red Sox Friday, they did present themselves with several chances against Red Sox starter Kutter Crawford.

Tellez’s popup was one such instance, coming up with two men on base. While he didn’t come through, Jared Triolo did manage to single a run home to make it competitive, but Oneil Cruz fanned the following at-bat, meaning the team failed to post a much-needed crooked number. Masataka Yoshida’s two-run homer in the sixth gave the Red Sox enough breathing room shortly after.

And being close to scoring wasn’t quite a morale boost for Bryan Reynolds.

“It’s just kind of the ebbs and flows of baseball sometimes,” said Reynolds, who had three hits on the afternoon. “You’ve just got to score. Sometimes you go through little ruts. We’re in a rut right now. It’s still April 20. We’ve got time to make adjustments in the box, so we’re going to make adjustments.”

Some adjustments have already happened. Cruz, the team’s primary leadoff hitter against right-handed starters, was dropped to eighth in the order Saturday amid his slump. Over his last 11 games, he’s 4-for-42 (.095) with 21 strikeouts, which included an 0-for-3 performance Saturday where he walked, stole a base and struck out twice.

“Offensively, we need to find our footing, so mixing it up a little bit,” Shelton said pregame. “But trying to take some pressure off him because he’s really important to us, and I think right now he’s putting some added pressure on himself. Basically, trying to alleviate a little bit of that.”

Anything to jumpstart the offense would be good news, especially since when the offense has produced, the team has excelled. They have played 10 games where they scored four or more runs and are 10-0 in those contests. When they score three or fewer runs, they are 1-10.

Postgame, Tellez preached that it is only April 20. Five games is barely a blip on the radar over the course of a 162-game season.

“Good teams find a way to win, find a way to overcome adversity,” said Tellez. “I think we'll be just fine. It's a tough little stretch, and it happens."

Now a veteran player, that perspective comes naturally to him. The Pirates’ clubhouse has a mix of some veterans and younger players. All the veteran group can do is make sure everyone keeps their heads up.

“Sometimes timely hitting and situations that we don't capitalize on, they come back to bite you,” Tellez said. “Good teams capitalize on those and you're not going to do it every time, but more often than not, we will. I'm not too worried about where this team is. We're young but we're good, and we have the right guys headed in the right direction."