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The Pirates have a closer problem

Photo: David Hague
Win: Edwin Jackson (1-0)
Loss: Mark Melancon (0-1)
Save: Hector Rondon (3)
Mark Melancon’s drop in velocity of around 3 mph has been a concern since day one but it’s now reaching panic time for the Pirates when it comes to their closer situation.
In a wild game, Melancon blew a two-run lead in the ninth in a Pirates 9-8 loss to the Cubs tonight.
What did the Pirates in was the bullpen and defense.
Melancon allowed three hits and three earned runs, while walking two in facing eight batters. Tony Watson allowed a solo home run to Welington Castillo in the top of the 8th and Jared Hughes allowed three hits in the 7th.
The first four batters Melancon faced reached base.
Anthony Rizzo singled to center to leadoff the ninth and Jorge Soler doubled to deep center, putting runners at second and third with no outs.
Melancon then walked young phenom Kris Bryant to load the bases. Melancon was ahead 1-2 in the count and threw three straights ball to walk Bryant. Starling Castro would single to left, as Rizzo and Soler scored to tie the game at 8-8. On Castro’s hit, the ball took a high hop and Harrison who had a rough night in the field, was unable to get high enough to knock the ball down and two runs scored.
Catcher Welington Castillo would drive in the game winning run for the Cubs with a groundout to second, scoring Bryant.
The Cubs 2-5 hitters (Rizzo, Soler, Bryant, Castro) went a combined 9-18 with 1 home run, 6 RBIs in the win.
For Melancon the huge concern is the dropped velocity where it’s difficult seeing him coming out of this. He’s the type of pitcher who has little chance of being successful when he’s sitting around 87-88.
“I would say right now we’re not seeing the crispness we’ve seen out of his pitches,” Clint Hurdle said of Melancon. “There’s been a velocity drop….. There’s no injury.”
The Pirates got big nights at the plate and clutch hits from several players.
Among them Jung Ho Kang who delivered a key 2-out, three-run double in the seventh to break a 5-5 tie and put the Pirates up 8-5.
Kang went 2-4 with 3 RBIs in the loss.
“It was fun to watch. Will help his confidence moving forward,” Hurdle said.
Starling Marte homered for the second straight night, going 2-3 with home run, 2 RBI and 3 runs scored.
Francisco Cervelli’s 2-out, two-run RBI in the 5th put the Pirates ahead 5-4. Cervelli was 2-3 on the night and is hitting .306 on the season.

About The Author

William DePaoli

TIOPS Insider

William DePaoli is the President/Founder of Inside Pittsburgh Sports LLC and can be reached at

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