9th inning goes south quickly for Bucs vs. Yanks

Pirates rally for four runs in 8th, but Crowe allows walk-off slam

September 21st, 2022

NEW YORK -- The Pirates arguably had their most crushing loss of the 2022 season on Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. They had an 8-4 lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning, but Wil Crowe failed to record an out, as the Bucs lost to the Yankees, 9-8, on a walk-off grand slam by Giancarlo Stanton. Pittsburgh’s losing streak rose to five games.

Since the All-Star break, Crowe has been inconsistent, allowing 15 runs and 11 walks in 22 innings. But manager Derek Shelton let Crowe enter the game with a significant lead. The Yankees, however, showed their patience and wouldn’t bite on Crowe’s sliders and changeups. Suddenly, the Yanks’ batters were getting ahead in the count.

It started with Aaron Judge, who is having one of the best offensive seasons in MLB history. He got ahead, 3-1. Crowe vowed to himself that he wasn’t going to walk him, so he threw a pitch well in the strike zone, and Judge smoked the ball into the left-field bleachers for his 60th home run of the season. No big deal, Crowe thought. The Pirates were still up, 8-5.

“I was just going to go after him there. We have the lead. I threw a bad pitch middle-middle. He did what he was supposed to do with it,” Crowe said. “I was trying to attack him. He laid off some good sliders down and away.

“I felt like I wanted to go after him. He is the best hitter in baseball right now. But for me, I can’t put him on. I have to go after him. I was trying to make my pitch, but it was right down the middle.”

After the Judge homer, Crowe thought he made some good pitches, but the Yankees kept reaching base. Anthony Rizzo followed Judge and doubled to left-center field before Gleyber Torres walked to put runners on first and second. Josh Donaldson then blooped a ball to right field for a base hit to load the bases.

“I thought I made a good pitch to Donaldson. It’s just the way the game goes sometimes,” Crowe said. “Sometimes, you have to take your licks and keep moving forward. It’s not the greatest feeling right now. I blew the game for the guys. It would have been nice to get a win tonight. But I’ll learn from it. I take what I can from it and move forward.”

Stanton came to the plate with New York down three runs and the bases juiced and swung at a 2-2 changeup for a grand slam to end the game and give Crowe his 10th loss of the season.

“I threw some good sliders to him early,” Crowe said. “... I thought I was in a good position to throw my changeup there. I think I just left it up a little bit. It was the right pitch, wrong location.”

After the game, Shelton said he didn’t mind a solo homer, but he didn’t like that Crowe couldn’t locate his pitches.

“You can’t walk a guy. We have to execute pitches,” Shelton said. “You cannot leave the ball in the middle of the plate. It’s one of the best lineups in baseball. We left the ball in the middle of the plate. Because of it, we ended up paying for it.”

Crowe’s performance spoiled a great outing from right-hander Luis Ortiz, who pitched five solid innings, allowed one earned run and struck out five batters. Ortiz, the No. 30 prospect in the Pirates organization according to MLB Pipeline, not only held Judge hitless in three plate appearances, but he confused the Yankees’ hitters with his fastball and slider.

“He executed pitches. It was a positive sign,” Shelton said. “There aren't many bigger stages than [New York], especially with the situation [the Yankees are in] and what Judge is doing. I was really pleased with how Ortiz threw the ball.”

It was Ortiz’s second start of his career, and he wasn’t occupied thinking about Judge’s historic run or the Yankees’ strengths.

“I don’t try to focus too much on whom I’m facing, what names they carry on the back of their jerseys. All I focus on is … sticking to the plan,” Ortiz said through interpreter Mike Gonzalez. “This is something I’ve been practicing and developing throughout my career. To be honest, I’m the one with the ball. The game doesn’t start until I let go of that ball. That’s been my mindset.”