In a game in which they trailed by three runs in the second inning, against a starting pitcher with a 2.00 ERA entering the game, the Pirates still had every chance to beat the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday.
With catcher Tyler Heineman starting on the extra inning on second, third baseman Hoy Park ripped an infield single to put runners on the corners with nobody out and the top of the order coming up. That’s when the rally fell apart.
Left fielder Jack Suwinski, batting leadoff for Ke’Bryan Hayes who is currently shelved with a shoulder injury, struck out swinging.
Center fielder Bryan Reynolds popped out in foul ground to the third baseman. Michael Chavis struck out swinging to end the frame.
With that, it was up to the Rays to go and take it, and they did. It was Harold Ramírez, both a former Pirate and a burgeoning Pirate killer, who pinch-hit with one out and a runner on third.
He smacked a single through the left side of the infield, making him 11-for-29 against Pittsburgh in his career and sending the Pirates to a 4-3 loss and a 29-41 record.
Hoy Park clawed the Pirates all the way back in the fifth with another 411-foot shot to right-center. Springs had allowed just five homers all season entering the game, and in the span of seven hitters,
All the while, Keller stayed strong, bouncing back for a pair of 1-2-3 innings in the third and fourth. Two got on base with one out in the fifth on a pair of singles,
Overall, the changes Keller has made to his arsenal continue to pay dividends. Since returning to the rotation with a sinker May 31, he has made five starts, lasting 27 1/3 innings with a 2.96 ERA and 23 strikeouts.
That’s a far cry from the Keller’s lackluster form at the beginning of the year and really most of the last few years.
On Friday, it was enough to give the Pirates a fighting chance, but late-inning opportunities slipped away and so did a potential win.