The Pittsburgh Pirates have scored five runs in the ninth inning of their two losses in the past two nights to the Chicago Cubs — a total of one in the other 16.
Sounds like a team that doesn’t quit. Actually, right now that’s the best remark you can make about the Pirates, who fell to 2-6 Saturday after a 4-3 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Yet, what ails the Pirates goes beyond their inability to find consistency at the plate.
They lost two more pitchers in the game, first starter Mitch Keller, who left in the third inning with left side discomfort, and later reliever Michael Feliz (right forearm discomfort).
That increases the number of ailing pitchers on the payroll to seven.
Jameson Taillon (Tommy John surgery) and Chris Archer (finger numbness) were ruled out for the season long ago.
Clay Holmes (forearm), Kyle Crick (shoulder) are on the injured list.
Keone Kela remains absent with covid-19 complications.
After the game, manager Derek Shelton didn’t want to speculate on how long Keller and Feliz might be out, or who would fill a potential void in the starting rotation.
“I don’t think we speculate on anything until we know what the injury is or how we are moving forward,” Shelton said.
One candidate to start might be rookie JT Brubaker, who threw three scoreless innings Saturday. Included in his effort was loading the bases with two outs in sixth (hit-batsman, single, walk) and getting David Bote to fly out to right field to end the threat. In two outings this season (five innings), he’s allowed no runs and four hits while striking out seven.
“He got better (Saturday night),” Shelton said. “Never lost his cool. Executed pitches, executed the slider with really good velocity, 87, 88 (mph).”
Brubaker, who pitched collegiately at Akron, missed most of last season with a forearm strain after he was the Pirates’ minor-league pitcher of the year in 2018. But he had been exclusively a starter before this season.
“I haven’t been told anything,” he said after the game. “Whatever role, I’m ready for it. Whatever happens, it happens. I’ll do what I need to do to be prepared for whatever situation it is.”
He doesn’t lack in confidence.
“I always trust my stuff,” he said. “I always have confidence in everything. Just the fact I was able to witness it playing, it’s even more confidence.”
For the second consecutive night, the Pirates’ rally fell short after the bullpen failed to keep the score close. Before leaving the game, Feliz gave up a two-run homer to Kyle Schwarber to give the Cubs a 4-0 lead heading into the ninth. The Cubs (6-2) scored all their runs on homers, with Mt. Lebanon graduate Ian Happ and Javier Baez victimizing Keller shortly before he left the game.
In the ninth, Kevin Newman singled to open the inning. After Josh Bell struck out for the third time, Colin Moran hit his fifth home run of the season to slice the 4-0 lead in half. Then, Bryan Reynolds doubled and moved to third, uncontested, when the Cubs shifted their infield for Gregory Polanco. Reynolds scored when Polanco grounded to second base for the second out. Phillip Evans walked, but pinch-hitter Jose Osuna bounced into a force play to end the game.
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .
Pirates/MLB | Sports