PITTSBURGH — The Pirates and Marlins faced each other in a four-game set just last week. The pitching matchup the final game of that set? Zach Thompson against Braxton Garrett.
The mound duel repeated itself in the Marlins 8-1 win over the Pirates on Friday night at PNC Park, and just like in the last series, the Pirates bats had virtually no answer for the Marlins’ southpaw.
In the first matchup last Thursday, Garrett blanked the Pirates over six scoreless innings. He only allowed two hits and picked up a career-high 11 strikeouts.
In this one, it was a similar story for the Marlins’ rookie left-hander. He again tossed six-strong innings, limiting the Pirates to just one run on a pair of hits. He only walked one and punched out seven.
“I think the ability to spin the breaking ball, especially to right-handers at the back foot and then throw the fastball off it in there is what makes him really challenging,” said Pirates manager Derek Shelton. “Once they got the lead, I thought we went away from our approach and started to chase a little bit.”
To quote the late, great Yogi Berra, “it was déjà vu all over again.” The Pirates are surely glad that they don’t have to see Garrett again this season.
String Of Strong Starts Snapped
Thompson had not allowed more than two earned runs in a start since May 25 against the Rockies. Since that start, Thompson had posted a 2.75 ERA in his last seven outings before Friday night.
The Pirates’ right-hander just didn’t have it in this one and got knocked around for seven earned runs on nine hits in 5.1 innings.
“[The curveball] was just kind of floating in there today so it wasn’t really a good pitch for me, [and] the fastball wasn’t really there,” Thompson said on his outing.
It looked like Thompson struggled more with his command in this one and the Marlins capitalized on some pitches he left up on the zone.
Delay’s First Dinger
Essentially the only bright spot for the Pirates on offense was the solo homer for Jason Delay in the third inning, the first longball of his career.
Not only that, but is was Delay’s first at-bat at PNC Park.
“There wasn’t really anything going through my head, I was pretty much just floating,” Delay said with a laugh. “I didn’t even really realize until like the fifth inning that that was my first at-bat at PNC Park which kind of made it a little bit more special.”
It certainly was a special homerun for the 27-year-old backstop. Delay hasn’t given much thought to what he intends to do with the baseball yet, but says he’ll “cross that bridge in the offseason,” no pun intended for his first big league homer coming in the city of bridges.
Big Shoes To Fill
With the trade of Daniel Vogelbach to the New York Mets, the Pirates have some big shoes to fill, both literally and figuratively. Vogelbach paced the Pirates’ offense with 34 RBIs, and was second on the team with a .769 OPS.
“I don’t know what we’ll do with [the DH],” Shelton said. “Moving forward we’ll have to look at it, but I don’t think we’ve decided anything right away.”
Vogelbach was originally penciled into the Pirates’ lineup for their matchup with the Marlins, but the trade was finalized not long before first pitch. There are several candidates who can fill in for Vogelbach currently on the roster, such as Yoshi Tsutsugo, and Cal Mitchell along with a handful of others, but Vogelbach’s production will be hard to replicate.
Tsutsugo has struggled throughout the season, and Mitchell is a rookie still trying to find his way at the big league level. The Pirates’ offense has struggled as a whole, and the loss of Vogelbach is a big blow.
“I personally really appreciate everything that he brought everyday because he’s a wonderful teammate,” said Shelton.