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Pirates continue to find new ways to disappoint their fans

What’s the point of having two of the best young pitchers in Major League Baseball if you’re just going to blow games that they start?

I’m not exactly sure how deep the Allegheny River is right outside of PNC Park, but the Pirates ship may be scraping the bottom of it after blowing a 5-1 lead to the Giants and losing by a score of 7-6 on Thursday afternoon.

It was the second blown lead in less than 24 hours for the Pirates and their Shark Stank bullpen.

Paul Skenes, the generational talent, pitched six good innings on Thursday. No, he wasn’t nearly as dominant as he was at Wrigley Field in Chicago six days earlier, but Skenes allowed six hits and one earned run while striking out three hitters and walking one.

Most importantly, Skenes exited the game with a four-run advantage.

Unfortunately, reliever Jose Hernandez allowed a solo home run to Heliot Ramos in the top of the seventh inning to draw San Francisco to within three runs.

The Pirates got the run right back in the bottom of the seventh when Bryan Reynolds hit his second home run in as many days to give Pittsburgh back its four-run advantage.

But the Bucs bullpen continued its season-long trend of being shaky to downright horrible, as Hunter Stratton allowed the first two Giants batters to reach base in the top of the eighth inning before Matt Chapman launched a three-run homer to center field to draw the visitors to within one run. Stratton remained in the game until he allowed the tying run to make it 6-6.

Aroldis Chapman then entered the game and picked up where he left off the night before by offering up horrible relief pitching–including a single by Brett Wisley that brought home what would prove to be the winning run.

It was such a wasted day all the way around. Andrew McCutchen led off the bottom of the first inning with his seventh home run. Catcher Joey Bart, who has now been thrust back into a starting role thanks to a groin injury suffered by Yasmani Grandal, smacked a 434-foot grand slam to dead-center field in the bottom of the fourth inning to give Pittsburgh a 5-1 lead.

It was the second 5-1 advantage that the Buccos blew in as many days. Actually, Pittsburgh led by a score of 5-0 on Wednesday night, thanks mostly to a Reynolds’ grand slam that came, you guessed it, in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Speaking of Game 2 of the series, Jared Jones, like Skenes, pitched six solid innings, allowing six hits and three runs while striking out five and walking three.

Jones left with a 5-3 lead.

Wasn’t getting to the seventh inning supposed to be a recipe for success in 2024 thanks to a bullpen that was expected to be the strength of the team? Yes, but that recipe has produced way too many blown opportunities through the first two months of the season.

Wednesday night was no exception, as Chapman entered the top of the eighth inning and quickly exited after walking the first three Giants hitters he faced. Colin Holderman came on and did what he does best–he held San Francisco to just one run while recording three outs.

Sadly, Holderman, who stayed in the game in the top of the ninth inning, allowed the game-tying run with two outs.

The Giants then pillaged and plundered the Pirates bullpen in the top of the 10th inning to the tune of four runs to win going away, 9-5.

This homestand began on such a promising note on Tuesday night when Pittsburgh, pulling a Giants, rallied from four runs down in the bottom of the ninth inning before winning, 7-6, on a single by Nick Gonzalez in the bottom of the 10th.

The Pirates had just taken three of four in Chicago last weekend, and things seemed to be trending in the right direction after such an emotional win to begin the homestand.

Instead of sweeping San Francisco, or even taking two of three, the Pirates lost two. Not only did Jones and Skenes pitch on back-to-back days, and not only did the Pirates hit a grand slam two games in a row, but they lost both contests thanks to an underperforming bullpen.

The Pirates are now five games below .500 at 23-28 and six games back of Milwaukee in the National League Central Division.

Next up: A very talented Braves team invades PNC Park for a three-game series this weekend.

Shiver me timbers!


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