ATLANTA – This disaster of a road trip is proving what had been suspected since opening day: The Pirates are not a very good team, especially with so many players on the injured list and the overall lack of organizational depth.
Quite simply, they cannot hang with the better teams in the National League, now 0-7 on this trip after losing to the Braves, 6-5, Thursday afternoon at SunTrust Park and, before that, being swept in three games last weekend in Milwaukee.
Losing to good teams has been a recurring theme. The Dodgers, the league's best team, already swept all six games. And overall, the Pirates’ record of 30-38 puts them a season-worst eight games under .500 and at the bottom of the Central Division standings. The spring training proclamation of ownership and management that their club would be a contender rings hollow in mid-June.
The Pirates had a 2-1 lead midway through Thursday afternoon’s game before they had their daily pitching meltdown. And while they did rally from a 6-2 deficit to get the winning run to the plate in the ninth inning, the end result was the same -- another loss.
This time, Joe Musgrove was the culprit. He failed to retire any of the five batters he faced in the bottom of the fifth inning and they all scored.
By the time the inning was over, the Braves led 6-2.
Clint Hurdle said the Pirates were hopeful they could get five innings from Musgrove on such short rest. However, Musgrove couldn’t quite make it that far.
“Maybe it came quicker than we thought,” Hurdle said of fatigue on Musgrove’s part. “He was very efficient through four. He was very strong. He’s never been asked to do this before at the major-league level and I thought he gave it all he had.”
Musgrove wouldn’t use fatigue as an excuse. Instead, he credited the Braves for making adjustments in the fifth inning.
"I was having a lot of success early on with sinkers and getting ahead in the count with them," Musgrove said. "In the fifth inning, I was making some good borderline pitches but I wasn't able to get them to offer on them. I fell behind in the count and they're really good hitters. I wasn't executing pitches in that inning and they made me pay for it.
"They made an adjustment and I wasn't able to adjust to it. My stuff was (good) but you see how fast things can go sideways. I've got to do a better job."
It all happened so suddenly. Dansby Swanson walked and scored on Freddie Freeman’s triple, then Freeman scored on a Josh Donaldson single. After a single by Nick Markakis, Ozzie Albies ripped a two-run double to the gap in right-center field and Musgrove’s day was done.
Geoff Hartlieb relieved and got two ground outs. Yet even that resulted in a run, as the
y advanced Albies to third and then home.
This was Albies' big hit:
Musgrove (4-7) was tagged for six runs and nine hits in four innings, three days after being ejected in the first inning.
While it is easy to blame the Pirates’ bullpen for much of the team’s woes, the starting pitching has been atrocious on this trip. Including Musgrove’s truncated outing, the starters allowed 27 runs on 42 hits in 26 innings with 18 walks, 27 strikeouts and eight home runs allowed.
That works out to a 9.35 ERA and 2.31 WHIP. You don’t have to be ace copy editor/researcher/stat man Bob Maddamma to know those numbers are awful.
Overall, the staff had an 8.06 ERA and 2.03 WHIP on the trip, getting tagged for 35 extra-base hits, including 17 home runs.
"It was a tough series," Musgrove said. "I like the way our guys battle, though. We were down 6-2 and almost came all the way back. Our offense is doing a good job and (the pitching staff) is not taking advantage of that the way we should."
• Jordan Lyles, right-hander, left hamstring tightness Monday, is on the 10-day DL.
• Trevor Williams, right-hander, is on the 10-day IL with a right side strain. He began a rehab assignment with Class AAA Indianapolis on Thursday night, pitching three innings and allowing two runs on four hits with five strikeouts and one walk in 71 pitches, including 42 strikes.
• Francisco Cervelli, catcher, is on the seven-day concussion IL and won't rejoin the team on this trip.
• Jameson Taillon, right-hander, is on the 60-day IL with a right elbow flexor tendon strain and is rehabbing in Bradenton, Fla.
• Keone Kela, right-hander, is on the 10-day IL with right shoulder inflammation and is rehabbing in Bradenton.
• Chris Stratton, right-hander, is on the 10-day IL with right side discomfort. He is on a rehab assignment with Indianapolis.
• Rookie Davis, right-hander, is on the 10-day DL with a right middle finger blister.
• Erik Gonzalez, shortstop, is on the 60-day IL with a left clavicle fracture.
• Nick Burdi, relief pitcher, is on the 60-day IL with right elbow/pain caused by a nerve problem and is rehabbing in Bradenton.
• Lonnie Chisenhall, outfielder, is on the 60-day IL with a left calf strain and is currently rehabbing at his home in North Carolina.
The Pirates open a three-game series at 7:10 p.m. Friday at Marlins Park in Miami. Steven Brault (2-1, 5.05) will start against Trevor Richards (3-6, 3.31). Brault is 1-0 with a 1.72 ERA in his past three starts. Richards is 3-1 with a 1.74 ERA in his past five starts. I will be on the coverage.
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