It says something about modern baseball: a game with dual no-hitters going through six innings still required 3:01 to complete in front of a sparsely-attended PNC Park on a cold night in Pittsburgh.
After a wild 12-8 Brewers win the night before that saw Craig Counsell use five pitchers, he needed a quiet night from young lefty Aaron Ashby, which he received if you only look at runs scored. Ashby struggled with command but was ultimately effective, pitching 5.2 innings while only allowing a single hit and issuing five walks.
Opposing Ashby, the Pirates used Dillon Peters as a two-inning opener, followed by Bryse Wilson filling the traditional starter role with a four-inning start. I feel like this isn’t something we’re seeing nearly as often this season after openers became trendy in 2020 and 2021, and I’m entirely okay with that being the case. We need baseball to look more like it was 30 years ago, not less.
Through the first two-thirds of the game, the Brewer and Pirate pitching staffs tossed zeroes at each other, allowing no hits until Bryan Reynolds singled on a grounder to Willy Adames with two outs in the sixth. While it may appear the pitching staff of both teams was dialed in, watching the game gave a far different impression as the Brewers walked seven while the Pirates walked four. And the lack of hits was often the result of luck on both sides, not dominant pitching.
Before Kolten Wong doubled hard to right field in the sixth for the first Brewer hit, Brewer hitters had made contact on balls with the resulting xBA (expected Batting Average): 930, .670, .550, .420, .480.
The number of actual hits? Zero.
Thankfully, things finally started to roll in the top of the seventh, with the Pirates holding a 1-0 lead after a shaky fifth inning from Ashby, which saw him exit with two outs in the sixth. Leading off the inning, Christian Yelich pulled a 105.9 mph ground ball past the first baseman against Pirate reliever Wil Crowe. Hunter Renfroe quickly blooped a single to right-center, with Yelich taking third.
The Pirates continued their Bad News Bears routine as Tellez smashed a ground ball under the glove of first baseman Yoshi Tsutsugo for a two-base error. Tyrone Taylor kept the ground-pounding going with a liner between short and third. Unfortunately, the all-too-common offensive woes continued after this brief outburst. Omar Narvaez went down on strikes with runners on first and second with no outs. Mike Brosseau hit a relatively weak fielder’s choice, Tellez out at third. Wong, weak pop-fly to the left, inning over. The rally had ended, but the Brewers exited the top of the seventh, carrying a 2-1 lead.
The Brewers were able to flip to cruise control for two innings, handing the seventh to Brad Boxberger and the eighth to Devin Williams, neither of which relinquished a hit and had clean innings.
Sam Howard took the ball for the top of the ninth for the Pirates and had no feel for… anything. He faced leadoff hitter Rowdy Tellez, whom he promptly hit in the right arm. He walked Narvaez and then walked Brosseau, loading the bases. Kolten Wong was up, ready to extend the Brewers’ lead, which he did… by, you guessed it, walking in a run. It required a questionable check-swing call against Andrew McCutchen for Howard to get out of the inning finally, somehow allowing only one run.
I want to say Josh Hader came in, closed the game, grabbed the save, and everyone went home four minutes later, but Hader uncharacteristically struggled with control as well. After a borderline ball four call Ke'Bryan Hayes, Hader continued to run up an excessive pitch count while striking out Dan Vogelbach, Michael Chavis, and Tsutsugo to end the game.
A win is a win, but Hader is almost certainly unavailable to close the series after throwing 26 pitches to get through a single inning of work and tomorrow's early lunch-time start. The Crew goes for the sweep on the road with an 11:35 CST start time. Freddy Peralta (RHP) goes against Jose Quintana (LHP).