MILWAUKEE -- James Marvel was hit hard for the second start in a row Saturday night at Miller Park, and the Pirates again lost handily to the Brewers, 10-1.
Marvel, named the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year earlier in the week, has been baptized by fire into the majors. When Marvel was promoted, Neal Huntington stated right away that he would get four starts down the stretch. He drew a tough hand of opponents, opening against the Cardinals, then the Cubs and Brewers on the road. The latter two have not gone well. Last week, the Cubs were the hottest hitting club in the majors. This week, the Brewers are.
On Saturday, he lasted 3 1/3 innings, allowing five runs on six hits and two walks.
And if that wasn't enough to lay on a reeling rookie, the Pirates' loss was their 90th of the season and clinched last place in the Central Division, as they're now eight games behind the Reds with seven to play. It's their fifth 90-loss season in the 12 years since this management team fully took over for the 2008 season, and it's their fourth last-place finish.
Going back over the franchise's 133-year history, this was the 25th 90-loss season, meaning 20 percent of such seasons have come under this management team.
But back to Marvel ...
"He's learning," Clint Hurdle would say afterward. "This is the crucible for everybody that gets up here."
Growing pains are expected. Not everyone can be Bryan Reynolds and jump from Class AA to the majors with only a layover in Class AAA. And Marvel put up a fight for a while. After some hard contact in the first, he posted zeroes in the second and third. The fourth was another story.
"It seemed to me like he poured everything out he had until he just ran out of gas," Hurdle said.
Running out of gas is always a concern with a late season call-up. Although he's 25, at the upper-edge age for a prospect, Marvel had never pitched this deep into September, and he made a career-high 28 starts in the minors this year. But he dismissed fatigue as the problem.
"I still felt good. I still felt like I was executing good pitches," Marvel said.
Even if he still felt good, he was not on the same page with Elias Diaz, shaking him off throughout the night, especially in the deciding fourth inning. It all culminated on his final pitch when he missed Diaz's glove and the catcher twisted his knee in the process.
Diaz exited the game as a result.
"The game slowed to a crawl," Hurdle said on all of Marvel's shake-offs. "We sucked the energy right out of the stadium."
This time, Marvel sided with his skipper.
"I take ownership of that stuff," Marvel said. "Pregame, we had numerous conversations about this. It's something we prepare for. And I'm the guy with the ball in my hand, and nothing starts until I deliver a pitch."
A game like Saturday is what September baseball was intended for non-competing teams. It makes sense for the Pirates to take a look at Marvel at this level and for him to get his feet wet.
But, man, it can result in some bad baseball. That's not all on Marvel, especially during this eight game losing streak. He was just the one who took the loss.
"As a competitor, it is frustrating," Marvel said. "It's difficult, but the only way I know how to move forward is to just take this punch in the face and keep getting up."
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