PITTSBURGH – It was a nice little win for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night over the team with the best record in the major leagues.
The Pirates used a death-by-paper-cut attack to break a 0-0 tie with six runs in the third inning off Spencer Strider, who is second in the National League in wins with 12.
Then, manager Derek Shelton pieced together the rest by using seven pitchers to help the Pirates hold on for a 7-6 victory over the Atlanta Braves at PNC Park.
After starter Osvaldo Bido gave up four runs (three earned) in four innings and Yerry De Los Santos was touched for one run in 0.2 of an inning, Ryan Borucki (0.1), Jose Hernandez (0.2) Carmen Mlodzinski (1.1) and Angel Perdomo (one) combined for 3.1 scoreless innings.
That got the ball to closer David Bednar with a 7-5 lead to start the ninth. The Braves used a leadoff double by Michael Harris II to score a run before Bednar held on to snuff the threat and give the Pirates their third win in the last four games.
It was a neat relay race from Bido, who retired his first nine batters before faltering in a four-run fourth inning, all the way to Bednar. The bullpen could collectively feel good about itself by holding the mighty Braves to two runs in five innings.
Mlodzinski deservedly was awarded the win by official scorer Rick “Doctor” Soos for retiring all four batters he faced. The rookie looks like a keeper in the Pirates’ latest youth movement.
Mlodzinski has allowed only one earned run in 10.2 innings over his last nine outings. His ERA stands at 1.99 through the first 20 appearances of his major-league career.
“He goes right at people,” Shelton said. “The stuff itself is good, but I think the biggest thing is … he’s pitched himself into leverage situations. And there’s no bigger leverage situation than going through the heart of the order.”
The only downside to the Pirates’ win is that games like Monday are unsustainable. A team can’t consistently use seven pitchers and be successful. The bullpen will be blown out.
Yet the lack of starting pitching depth has put the Pirates in this position.
Mitch Keller and Johan Oviedo are the only two members of the rotation who the Pirates can count on to get them through more than two turns of the batting order. And Keller is 0-4 with an unsightly 9.97 ERA in four starts since making the first All-Star Game of his appearance last month.
The Pirates are lucky to get even five innings for their other three starters – Bido, rookie Quinn Priester and left-hander Brady Falter, who was acquired last week from the Philadelphia Phillies in a trade.
The rotation suffered two big blows when JT Brubaker and Vince Velasquez underwent season-ending elbow surgeries. Max Kranick is still rehabbing from an elbow operation that has sidelined him since May 2022.
Rookie reliever Andre Jackson’s arm is built up to the point that he could possibly go four or five innings if moved into the rotation. Right-handers Roansy Contreras and Luis Ortiz are both back in the minor leagues after struggling in the majors this season. The Pirates don’t seem ready to promote either one.
Right-hander Thomas Hatch was claimed off waivers from the Toronto Blue Jays on Sunday. He has made just three starts this season, all at Triple-A Buffalo, and the 28-year-old’s 4.50 ERA in 45 innings with the Bisons does not inspire confidence.
Considering the lack of durability in their rotation, the Pirates will have to keep trying to win games like they did Monday night. That is a difficult way to life.