The pitch was up and inside. A lot of Jordan Lyles' pitches through four innings in the Pirates' 11-3 loss to the Cubs Thursday at PNC Park were up and inside. You gotta give Cubs manager Joe Maddon that much.
But this? This WWE-esque blowup, the spin moves, the screaming directed toward Clint Hurdle in the opposite dugout?
A bit much.
See for yourself:
You can almost hear excitable pro wrestling commentator Jim Ross egging it on, begging for home plate umpire Joe West to slip so Maddon can squeak through and get to Hurdle. A July 4 Royal Rumble at PNC Park sure would've been a sight to see, after all.
The problem with all this, however, is ... well. All of this. Maddon's explosion served no purpose.
Jordan Lyles broke it down after the game at his locker.
"I would assume that they were upset about a couple balls being up, above the strike zone," Lyles said. "Maybe from their standpoint they thought they were inside and up, but I think for the most part they were just up in general. I throw a lot of heaters up at hitters' hands."
I had to follow up there, so I asked Lyles if there was anything to Maddon's decision. Did it affect the game in his eyes? I mean, the Cubs did post seven runs to the Pirates' zero following the ejection.
Lyles quickly and capably shut down that line of thinking:
"The next pitch, we got a strikeout, [and] the crowd was a little louder," Lyles was telling me. "That was about it. For me, I got so many things going on upstairs that I don't think the crowd or what the opposing manager does make me do anything different."
Besides that, there's also the fact that, you know, literally nobody on the Pirates understood what Maddon was going on about. Lyles clearly didn't.
"I don't have any idea what happened," Hurdle said in his postgame press conference, repeating himself once for good measure. "I couldn't hear anything. People are yelling, everybody's yelling ... I mean, Jordan coming into the game, he's hit one guy this year. It's not something that's [in his] character. You're a pitcher watching guys hit, and I think he didn't want to give up any more homers. I don't know. But our intent's not to hit anybody. His intent's not to hit anybody."
The Pirates infielders didn't.
"I really have no idea what happened on that," Kevin Newman was saying at his locker. I prodded a little more here too, trying to find some angle, some way Maddon actually accomplished something.
Lyles, meanwhile, did circle back to cut Maddon some slack.
"Maybe [Maddon] was trying to get the boys to get a little light up under them or something," he offered. "I throw a lot of fastballs up and in. I’d be willing to say, percentage-wise, I’m up there with any starter with high fastballs."
Maddon reportedly said after the game the Pirates pitchers were getting "way too out of control," noting that he "can't wait" to face the Pirates again. They begin a three-game series in Chicago Friday, July 12.
"I love their players. It's a good team," Maddon added. "It's a real good team. And they're good guys. I like the guys on this team but if they keep pitching like that, a lot of these guys are not going to like their pitching staff."
In all, this storyline will receive the majority of the game's attention, but the Pirates were just outplayed tonight. They were out-hit and out-pitched, and that's a recipe for a loss.
Lyles' early home runs set the stage — one in each the first, second and third innings — and despite an early scoring outburst of their own to battle back, the Pirates' bats fell quiet after that fourth inning, getting blanked from there.
"We move on," Hurdle said in summary. "The focus now is the Brewers."
• Madness aside, Lyles was just not good tonight, allowing three home runs within 10 hits and seven earned runs total.
"I'm not sure in particular what led to [all the hard contact]," he was saying after the game. Lyles said he "missed completely" on Willson Contreras' home run while adding Kris Bryant simply put a great swing on his.
While he sounded more positive overall than expected, there was no doubt he took some level of accountability, half-joking that, "You're going to have to ask about a particular hit. There were a lot of them."
• The Pirates' scoring broke down like this: Jung Ho Kang went 1 for 3 with a run and an RBI. Josh Bell added a sac-fly RBI as well, moving his MLB-leading total there to 81. Elias Diaz generated the third run with a sacrifice fly of his own. After that, Kevin Newman added two singles to go 2 for 4 total, but he was the only Pirates player with multiple hits on the day.
• Clay Holmes' line tonight: two innings pitched, four strikeouts, zero hits. He pitched with confidence and authority, fanning the first four batters he faced.
"It's just nice seeing, kind of, the work pay off," Holmes said. "Each time out, I'm getting more and more comfortable."
"That was probably as good as we've seen him," Hurdle added.
All that you just read was from my last report on the Pirates vs. Cubs, a 5-1 win. Tonight, that Holmes was nowhere to be found. He put in two innings of work, allowing five hits, four runs (all earned), including a home run. Furthermore, he did this:
With the bases loaded, there's obviously no malice here, but this pitch served as a perfect representation of his outing today. Wild. And bad.
• Chris Stratton deserves a mention, allowing zero hits in three innings of relief. He had five strikeouts on nine batters faced.
• The Pirates take the four-game series, 3-1, by a total score of 32-22.
• At 42-44, the Pirates are three games behind the first-place Brewers and two-and-a-half games out of the second NL Wild Card spot.
• Time of game: 3 hours, 4 minutes
• Tonight's attendance: 29,238
• Gregory Polanco, right fielder, is on the 10-day IL with a left posterior shoulder strain.He’ll begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday. That’s expected to last at least a week.
• Francisco Cervelli, catcher, is on the seven-day concussion IL.
• Jameson Taillon, right-hander, is on the 60-day IL with a right elbow flexor-tendon strain.
• Keone Kela, right-hander, is on the 60-day IL with right shoulder inflammation. He threw a bullpen session Wednesday, throwing 29 pitches in all, and experienced no setbacks or concerns. He is set for a sim game Saturday.
• Rookie Davis, right-hander, is on the 10-day IL with a right middle-finger blister and is now rehabbing a strained right forearm at the Pirates' training facility in Bradenton, Fla.
• Erik Gonzalez, shortstop, is on the 60-day IL with a left clavicle fracture, and is on a rehab assignment with Class AAA Indianapolis. He is 1 for 16 with the club.
• Lonnie Chisenhall, outfielder, is on the 60-day IL with, as Dejan Kovacevic put it, "the most hellacious left calf strain in human history, playing Pokemon or something at his home in the Carolinas."
The Pirates open a three-game series at PNC Park against the Brewers Friday at 7:05 p.m. I'll be there alongside my dude Matt Sunday for all the coverage.
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