Walks have been a major issue for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ pitching staff.
Right-handed starter Joe Musgrove knows that all too well after losing his first three starts in part because he walked 11 batters in 14 2/3 innings.
Musgrove was hoping to improve on that Sunday, but he will have to wait a bit longer after a sore right ankle will prevent him from making his scheduled start when the Detroit Tigers face the Pirates in the finale of a three-game series at Pittsburgh’s PNC Park.
Instead, lefty Steven Brault (0-0, 7.20 ERA) will get the nod for the Pirates.
Brault worked three perfect innings in his last start on Aug. 2 against the Chicago Cubs, striking out four, but he had a rough outing Friday night in a wild 17-13 11-inning loss to the Tigers. He came on in relief and failed to retire any of the six batters he faced, giving up three hits and four runs, two on bases-loaded walks.
With that effort, Brault is now 1-0 with a 12.00 ERA in two career meetings with the Tigers.
Injuries have certainly made first-year manager Derek Shelton’s job even more difficult.
“In all situations, bullpen usage right now is challenging,” Shelton said. “It’s challenging because of the fact of guys’ availability, and it’s challenging because of the fact I think we’ve got six guys in our bullpen on the IL.”
Another injury to a non-pitcher occurred in ugly fashion on Saturday. First baseman Phillip Evans collided with right fielder Gregory Polanco chasing a foul ball. Polanco’s elbow struck Evans in the face, and Evans was removed on a stretcher.
“Wow. It’s something that really rattles the bones when you see something like that, when you see a young man down like that,” Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Tigers second-year right-hander Spencer Turnbull, who will oppose Brault, has been the team’s best starter in the early going. Turnbull (1-0, 2.45 ERA) has given up just three runs on six hits in 11 innings while recording 14 strikeouts.
He hasn’t pitched since a six-inning stint against Cincinnati on July 31. The Tigers were off for four days when their four-game series against St. Louis was postponed.
“He was filthy. He’s got great stuff and he’s coming into his own,” Gardenhire said after Turnbull’s last outing. “These two starts have been fantastic. The ball’s really coming out of his hand. He’s in control out there and hopefully he continues that. He’s moving the right way.”
Turnbull faced the Pirates once last season and didn’t allow an earned run in six innings.
Detroit has scored 28 runs in the first two games of the series and blasted five home runs on Saturday. The Tigers homered four times in the first inning, the first time they’ve hit four long balls in one inning since 2013.
Jeimer Candelario has back-to-back three-hit games and C.J. Cron has homered in both games.
“Your goal is always to win a series and we’ve done that,” Gardenhire said. “Now, we’ve got to go finish it off.”
–Field Level Media