Pirates Bullpen Might be Turning Corner

Relievers have looked sharp against Brewers

Josh Rowntree
June 20, 2018 - 12:06 am
Pittsburgh Pirates relief pitcher Tyler Glasnow (24) pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the sixth inning at PNC Park. Chicago won 8-6.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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The Pirates much-maligned bullpen has looked nearly lights out through two games against division leader Milwaukee. 

Following a disastrous run in which the pen seemed to get scorched on a nightly basis, Pittsburgh’s relievers have more than held their own the last two nights. 

On Monday, Kyle Crick and Felipe Vazquez combined to throw a pair of scoreless innings, preserving a 1-0 lead in a Pirates win. 

Tuesday, with Pittsburgh falling into an early 3-0 hole, Tyler Glasnow, Edgar Santana and Crick stepped in to pitch four more scoreless frames, keeping the Pirates in an eventual 3-2 loss. 

"They’ve shown the ability to pitch well before,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "They’re throwing strikes." 

At one point considered the biggest pitching question mark, Glasnow has settled into a versatile role in relief, including a pair of strong innings Tuesday night. 

"Glasnow’s doing a really nice job, to go two more innings after having one day off and to go through the meat of that lineup in (his) second inning." 

Overall, Glasnow has allowed just five runs in his last 23 2/3 innings.

As the closer, a turnaround from Vazquez has been substantial. After a leadoff single in the ninth inning Monday, Vazquez retired the next three batters, two via strikeout. The velocity is back up to around triple digits as well. 

"More often than not in sport, you learn more about people in adversity than you do in success,” Hurdle said. "He was disappointed when he felt he let the team down and wasn’t able to close off games.”

Vazquez blew four saves in five chances at the end of May. In June, however, he’s allowed just two runs and racked up four saves over 6 1/3 innings. 

"The windup got a little bit out of whack,” Hurdle added. "We ran into some other challenges. But the fight, the intensity, the preparation, the focus and the want to bounce back never changed, never wavered. That’s what we saw out of him that was most impressive.”

Despite Tuesday’s close loss, the Pirates pitching staff is going toe-to-toe with the team they’re chasing in the NL Central. It’s also a team that has the third-best ERA in the National League. 

But can it keep up? It likely has to. If not, the Pirates, now seven games back, may slide into total non-contention in the division. 

"We’ve got guys capable of doing it out there,” Hurdle said. "Sometimes it runs in a little bit of a cycle. Now, I think it’s our time to cycle back and be effective."