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Pirates’ Offense Silenced by Bello as Struggles Continue to Build

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Oneil Cruz, Pittsburgh Pirates

PITTSBUGH — Brayan Bello was just about untouchable against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on Friday night.

The young right-hander worked six innings for Boston in their dominant 8-1 win over the Pirates. Bello allowed one hit — a leadoff double from Jack Suwinski in the second inning. He walked Bryan Reynolds twice and struck out seven. The only other baserunner to reach against Bello was Rowdy Tellez on a fielding error from shortstop Ceddanne Rafaela in the top of the first.

Bello retired the final 11 batters he faced and 15 of the final 16 after Suwinski’s double.

In other words, the Pirates’ offense looked completely overmatched by the promising 24-year-old.

“We saw him in spring training, this kid’s good. He’s one of the best young pitchers in the game and that’s why they extended him,” manager Derek Shelton said. “The changeup/slider mix is really effective and then you’re talking 94-97 off it with action. He did a really good job keeping the ball down in the zone and he did a really good job of mixing and matching. I don’t know if we’ve seen a guy mix and match with the slider and changeup this year as well as we saw him do it tonight.”

The struggles at the plate on Friday night highlight a major problem that has been apparent for the Pirates during their four-game losing streak.

Against the Red Sox, the Pirates finally found the scoreboard in the ninth inning. Alika Williams tripled to left field and scored on Edward Olivares’ groundout.

The run snapped a stretch of 14-consecutive scoreless innings from the Pirates dating back to Wednesday’s 9-1 loss against the Mets.

Wednesday’s loss in New York capped off a three-game sweep. Combined between their three games against the Mets, the Pirates scored a total of five runs, including one apiece in each of the final two contests.

So, after a nine-run explosion against the Philadelphia Phillies on Saturday, the Pirates have scored a grand total of six runs in their last four games including three runs in their last three.

What’s led to the struggles?

For starters, the quality of at-bats from up and down the lineup have been poor. In 121 at-bats over their last four games, the Pirates have 17 hits. That’s a .140 batting average.

They aren’t taking advantage of their opportunities. In their last four games, the Pirates have gone 4 for 28 (.143) with runners in scoring position. This includes an 0 for 10 showing in Friday’s loss.

Home runs tend to make up for a team’s struggles with runners in scoring position. The Pirates slugged three home runs at Citizens Bank Park in their last win on Sunday, but have failed to leave the yard in any game during their four-game skid.

Outside of a clunker from Quinn Priester on Friday, the Pirates’ starting rotation has been excellent. Entering play, the rotation allowed 22 runs in their last 78.2 innings pitched (2.52 ERA).

Sure, the bullpen has had its struggles, but it doesn’t matter how they pitch if the offense can’t come through.

For as long as the Pirates’ offense continues to struggle, this rough patch has no end in sight.

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