Pirates suffer first defeat of season after squandering early lead at snowy PNC Park
Before the 7-3 loss to the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday night, the first week of the season was looking up for the Pirates.
Until they looked up, literally, and saw nothing but snow while trying to track an easy infield popup.
The Pirates were trying to protect a 3-2 lead in the sixth inning, but the ball off the bat of the Twins’ Eddie Rosario fell to the ground among pitcher Ivan Nova, first baseman Josh Bell and catcher Francisco Cervelli. That was the beginning of the end.
They got the out at first, but Brian Dozier moved from second to third. Miguel Sano grounded a single through a drawn-in infield, and the Pirates’ last lead of the night was gone.
Three doubles followed — one off Nova and two off reliever Dovydas Neverauskas — and the Twins had a 6-3 lead.
Manager Clint Hurdle labeled the inning “weird.”
“And I didn’t see it getting any less weird,” he said, explaining why he pulled Nova, who had pitched well prior to that inning. “Trying to help some (relievers) get some experience in challenging situations. That’s the way I went with it. That didn’t work out well for us.”
The Pirates (4-1) became the last MLB team to lose, but the bullpen had been struggling, and no starter has pitched into the seventh inning.
Nova (0-1) thought he pitched well, except for the sixth. He allowed a home run to Dozier in the third inning but trimmed his walk total from three in the opener last week in Detroit to one.
“If you take out the last inning, I think it was a good outing,” he said. But he conceded, “I have to be able to do a better job than what I did in that inning.
“Infield in, and (Sano) found the hole. I think I made a good pitch, and he found the hole. You get that one out, and he doesn’t score and you pitch different.”
On Logan Morrison’s double that prompted Hurdle to make a pitching change, Nova said, “I missed location.”
Dozier’s home run came on a changeup, and the ball barely cleared the wall in left field.
“Good call but bad execution,” he said. “Stuff like that happens. You have to keep fighting.”
Meanwhile, Pirates bats were largely silent, getting six of their eight hits in the first five innings after totaling five in Monday’s home opener.
In the bottom of the fifth, they failed to increase their 3-2 lead when Gregory Polanco was thrown out at home plate by Rosario after a single by Corey Dickerson. That was the last out of the inning, and the play turned out to be the Pirates’ last legitimate scoring threat.
″(Rosario) was having some challenges with his elbow,” Hurdle said. “He has a (above average) arm in the past. We felt he was guy we were going to push, make him make a play, and he was able to make a play.”
The game started well for the Pirates, with Bell hitting a two-run, 432-foot home run to center field in the first inning. The ball left his bat at 113.7 mph, according to baseballsavant.com.
“I felt like I’ve been waiting for that since the start of spring,” he said. “I finally clipped it the right way and got the ball flight that I wanted.”
Tyler Glasnow pitched the final three innings, allowing only one run while striking out five. The Twins’ only run scored after Bell thought Glasnow had picked Rosario off first base. The Pirates challenged the call but lost. Rosario scored on Sano’s single.
“I guess we didn’t have the right (video) angles to overturn it,” Bell said, “but I thought he was out.”
In the bigger picture, Glasnow gave a hopeful glimpse of what the bullpen might become.
“Staying aggressive, getting that curveball over for strikes and showing I could throw it for a strikeout pitch,” he said. “Going out and being athletic and doing everything I can with athletic ability instead of just step by step.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.