The Pirates bullpen issues went under the microscope for the third time in as many games as a late-inning collapse allowed the Rays to complete the sweep with a 4-2 victory.
Pirates’ starter Roansy Contreras turned in a solid, if imperfect performance. He limited hard contact but struggled with command, allowing the Rays to drive up his pitch count and chase him from the game after five.
Rays’ starter Shane McClanahan, currently a front-runner for the AL Cy Young award, was stellar once again, striking out ten batters across seven innings and allowing just one run.
Contreras’ accuracy issues came to a head in the second inning when he walked four batters, allowing a run to score on a free pass to second baseman Vidal Bruján.
Pirates second baseman Yu Chang led off the top of the third with a single, and catcher Tyler Heineman moved him into scoring position with another. Bryan Reynolds hit a third single, this one with two outs, to score Chang from second and knot the game at one.
In the fourth, Contreras worked around a leadoff double, inducing a popup, strikeout, and fly out to escape the threat.
Ke’Bryan Hayes prevented a leadoff double from scoring in the seventh, nailing the runner with a throw home on a fielder’s choice play. Anthony Banda entered the game with two outs, and the Pirates appeared to end the inning as Heineman threw Randy Arozarena out on a steal attempt. The Rays challenged, however, and the call was overturned.
Designated Hitter Ji-Man Choi responded with a tie breaking double, and the next three batters reached on an intentional walk and a pair of singles, stretching the lead to 4-1.
Daniel Vogelbach closed the deficit to two with a pinch hit home run in the eighth.
The Pirates sent the tying run to the plate three times across the eight and ninth innings, but were unable to score as the Rays closed out the game and the series.
The loss moves Pittsburgh to 29-43 on the season. Next up is a road series against Washington beginning on Monday, June 27. No starter has been announced for the Pirates yet.