Pirates blow lead, drop season finale to Indians

Tribune Content Agency

CLEVELAND — The Pirates finished their 2020 season similar to how they started it — by watching the Indians’ offense explode, the middle of Cleveland’s order taking an aggressive approach and pouncing on mistakes made by Pittsburgh pitchers.

It started with three exhibition losses to the Indians, and it ended with losses in two of three here at Progressive Field this weekend, including an 8-6 defeat Sunday in the season finale in which the Indians rallied from a four-run deficit.

The biggest takeaway from this one, however, wasn’t so much happened on the field as opposed to how little drama occurred off of it.

A year ago at this time, the Pirates dismissed Clint Hurdle on the final day of the season. He chose not to manage that afternoon and went home, forcing the club to break the news a day before it really wanted to.

The result of that was the perception that they botched Steve Blass’ final game because Hurdle’s dismissal — and the logistical questions it created — was all anyone wanted to talk about.

This time around, nothing.

Manager Derek Shelton held his typical pregame Zoom call and closed it by thanking everyone — players, coaches, fans, media, team staffers, you name it, offering words of appreciation during a season that has been tough for everyone.

Shelton spent other parts of it discussing the impending offseason analysis of himself and the Pirates and how they can get better for next year, which, after finishing 19-41, obviously needs to happen.

It wasn’t the year the Pirates wanted or expected, but it also doesn’t mean that it was completely useless. They’ve played better baseball over these past couple weeks, while Ke’Bryan Hayes has vaulted himself into star status.

The starting pitchers have also been very good. Those guys entered the game with a MLB-low 1.46 ERA over the past 12 games, and JT Brubaker was headed for a quality start Sunday until encountering trouble in the sixth — specifically a three-run homer from designated hitter Franmil Reyes that ended his afternoon.

The Pirates build an early 2-0 lead thanks to Jose Osuna’s run-scoring single in the second inning and a solo homer from Hayes in the third.

For Hayes, that was his eighth consecutive hit dating back to Friday night, making him the first Pirates player with eight in a row since Andy Van Slyke in 1994.

It was the fifth home run of the season for Hayes, who found a 1-1 slider up in the zone and drove it over the center-field wall.

The Indians tied the game in the bottom half, as first baseman Carlos Santana took a big hack at a 3-0 sinker and drove a 445-foot shot 108.8 mph to center.

Osuna hit his second homer in as many games in the fifth inning to push the Pirates in front, the solo shot coming on a slider that Indians pitcher Cam Hill left up in the zone.

Colin Moran scored another with his grounder to second before Adam Frazier gave the Pirates two more runs in the top of the sixth, increasing their lead to 6-2.

What Frazier did showed much of what has given the Pirates success of late — early, aggressive swings. This time, Frazier jumped on a changeup a little down off of Nick Wittgren and drove it to right.

The Indians, however, would not go away.

Brubaker gave up a leadoff double to third baseman Jose Ramirez and walked Santana before Reyes, again ahead in the count, drove a slider to center.

Cleveland continued the offensive onslaught in the seventh inning, as Nik Turley hit the first batter of the inning, second baseman Cesar Hernandez, Ramirez followed with a double, and Santana scored them both with another two-bagger.

Reyes made it an 8-6 game with his sacrifice fly after a wild pitch from Turley moved Santana to third.


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