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Pirates Takeaways: Nobody Else But Heller, Blatant Missed Call

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Pittsburgh Pirates, Derek Shelton

PITTSBURGH — Coming off of a bullpen game on Saturday, the Pittsburgh Pirates were already short on relievers in Sunday’s series finale against the Minnesota Twins at PNC Park.

Exactly what they did not want to see happen ultimately transpired. With both sides locked in a 4-all tie after nine innings, there was free baseball on the North Shore.

All of the bullpen arms the Pirates had available were used to get through the first nine innings, except for one. Manager Derek Shelton had no other choice but to turn to the recently-selected Ben Heller to handle the extra frame, hoping he would have better results than in his team debut earlier in the homestand.

On Thursday against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Heller was tagged for five runs on four hits in a lone inning of work.

In Sunday’s game against Minnesota, Heller struggled even more. The Twins tagged the right-hander for seven runs, six of which were earned, on five hits. Heller hit three batters with a pitch and walked another.

The end result was an 11-5 loss for the Pirates, who were trying to complete a series-sweep.

“I feel terrible, for the team, for myself,” an emotional Heller said. “I feel like I’m squandering my own opportunity to be here. Yeah, it’s frustrating. At the end of the day, I cost the team a win.”

Unless they turned to a position player, which Shelton said was under consideration, it was up to Heller to find a way to get three outs.

Carmen Mlodzinski was the opener for the Pirates on Saturday. Luis Ortiz relieved Mlodzinski and threw 4.1 innings. David Bednar and Colin Holderman pitched in back-to-back games and four of the first five of the homestand. All four were unavailable.

Ultimately, Heller got the third out of the inning, but the damage was far too extensive for the Pirates to mount a comeback.

“As far as when it started kind of snowballing there, just try and remind myself to keep pounding the zone, don’t think about anything else,” he said. “Just keep trying to make pitches.”

How Does That Get Missed?

In the top of the first inning, the Twins had already scored a pair of runs off of starting pitcher Jared Jones.

With a man on third and Byron Buxton at the plate, Jones fired in a fastball which ticked off of Buxton’s bat and, as expected, got by Henry Davis.

Home plate umpire Ryan Wills, however, did not see the ball hit the bat and let things play on. Max Kepler moved up 90 feet and touched home on what was ruled a passed ball charged to Henry Davis.

Shelton emerged from the dugout and urged the four umpires to meet. After a conversation, the original call on the field stood. There wasn’t anything the Pirates could do about the umpire’s error.

“Yeah, the foul balls aren’t reviewable. So when I went out, I asked them what they had. First of all, you ask if there was a swing. None of them had swing, none of them had foul ball. And then I basically said, ‘If I challenge this and it’s a foul ball,’–I can only challenge a hit by pitch– I said, ‘So if I challenge hit by pitch and they tell me it’s foul ball, which I knew the rule, will they change it?’ And he said no.

“So, there’s no sense in losing a challenge and there’s nothing I can do. It was just one of those plays–I mean, those plays are tough on umpires when it’s up near the hand. I think he thought it hit Henry’s glove.”

The game doesn’t come down to one play, but if that’s called correctly, maybe that game ends in a different result.

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Ron Cokain

I don’t get how it seems the Pirates are the only organization that gets themselves into this bind of being short on arms to cover innings so often. It never seems our opposition is in this predicament. And we have no one in AAA to call up.

Dave Desuta

I was thinking the exact same thing. Heller got lit up against the Dodgers and you didn’t want to send him back out there, bring up someone else. Maybe a AAA starter who was rested, a decent bullpen AAA guy. This shouldn’t have been that hard. Now if that guy gets tattooed, then so be it, but to do nothing…I don’t get it. Maybe I’m missing something

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