Kingham looks to be odd man out of rotation

Rookie can't find control as Bucs fall to Cubs

Josh Rowntree
August 02, 2018 - 12:03 am
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Nick Kingham (49) delivers a pitch against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at PNC Park.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports


With the addition of Chris Archer to the Pirates rotation, coupled with his worst outing of the season in Pittsburgh 9-2 loss to the Cubs Wednesday, it would appear that Nick Kingham will be the player optioned to AAA Indianapolis when Archer makes his debut Friday.

Kingham went just one inning, throwing 51 pitches and surrendering four runs on three hits. He added a walk, a hit batter, a wild pitch and a rundown throwing error that brought in the game’s third run. A Sean Rodriguez error at second base meant two of the runs were unearned.

“It was a rough first inning, all the way around,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Some balls weren’t hit hard, they were well placed. We didn’t handle a ball well and he’s got a guy caught and we’re not able to execute a play.”

Kingham, a 26-year-old rookie, now has a 5.02 ERA this season. In his last two starts, he’s pitched just four total innings, allowing ten runs. 

“The overall execution wasn’t what we’ve seen from him in the past either,” Hurdle added. “To end up throwing 51 pitches in one inning, that’s the reason he had to come out. That’s just too many pitches to push a guy back out there… The command just wasn’t sharp.”

Kingham was not made available to speak postgame. The Pirates will have Thursday off and do not need to make a roster move for Archer until Friday, when he will take the mound against St. Louis at PNC Park. 

McRae makes debut

A brighter spot in an otherwise dim night was the debut of reliever Alex McRae.

McRae, a 25-year-old righty from Wisconsin, was called up six days ago, but has not been able to get into a game yet. 

“Having a few days here, I think just getting a feel for how everything goes and finally being able to get in a game, it was still nerve-racking, but it was a little easier,” he said.

He allowed one run over three innings, striking out three batters and walking only one. 

“It’s a hard night to make your debut and he did a nice job with it,” Hurdle said. “He did the best he could with the opportunity he.”

“I kind of blacked out for a little bit, to be honest,” McRae joked. “Once I got out on the mound and threw a couple pitches, I kind of settled in a little bit and got the first guy out, which helps a ton. I think, after that, it was little bit easier.”

McRae nearly picked up his first career hit in the fifth inning, when he hit a sharp liner to center field. But, Cubs outfielder Ian Happ made a diving catch to rob McRae.

“I started to see him diving and I was like ‘I hope it gets past him and I can try for an inside-the-park home run or something.”

Asked if he would have made it all the way around, he said “probably not, I would’ve ran out of gas, for sure.”

Rodriguez continues to slump

Pirates utility man Sean Rodriguez struck out four times Wednesday night. 

Since hitting a home run in Cincinnati on July 22, Rodriguez has just one hit in his last 19 at-bats, with 11 strikeouts. 

“They’re not new,” Hurdle said of the struggles. “He came back after the break really strong. It was a tough evening tonight, for sure. We’ve seen a little bit more of that. 

“He’s working to try to figure some things out and we’re giving him an opportunity to figure some things out.”

Busy night for Cervelli

Pittsburgh catcher Francisco Cervelli had three singles, drove in a run and reached base via a walk. 

He also picked up a save. 

In the third inning, home plate umpire Chris Guccione was stuck in the mask by a foul tip. Guccione wobbled backwards, and Cervelli grabbed him, holding on until athletic trainers arrived. 

Guccione remained in the game for one more batter, but then left. 

Cervelli is no stranger to head injuries, having dealt with multiple concussions, including a couple this season.

“He got hit and his eyes were in another planet,” he said. “I had to grab him. I’ve been there so many times, so I know the feeling.”