Neftali Feliz hurt, bullpen implodes late as Pirates lose fifth consecutive game
September 3, 2016 10:55 PM
Gene J. Puskar / AP
Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli tags out the Brewers' Orlando Arcia, who was attempting to score from third on a fielder's choice in the fifth inning Saturday at PNC Park.
Pirates starter Ivan Nova throws over to first as the Pirates take on the Milwaukee Brewers Saturday at PNC Park.
The Pirates' Josh Harriso runs scores in the first inning Saturday at PNC Park, the second game of a three-game series against the Milwaukee Brewers.
By Stephen J. Nesbitt / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Right-hander Neftali Feliz watched from the trainer’s room at PNC Park as the Milwaukee Brewers seized the second chance he had handed them in the eighth inning Saturday night. The visitors battered left-hander Felipe Rivero and delivered Feliz the defeat in the Pirates’ 7-4 loss.
In their fifth consecutive loss, the Pirates also lost set-up reliever Feliz. He put two men aboard in the eighth, tasked with keeping the score knotted at 2-2, and then grimaced in pain after firing a fastball to Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Rushed into action, Rivero allowed the inherited runners and two others to score.
The Pirates described Feliz’s injury as “right arm discomfort,” though its cause and severity are not known. Feliz was not in the clubhouse after the game. Catcher Francisco Cervelli said Feliz showed no prior signs of pain, but his body language changed after the final fastball. In his first season in Pittsburgh, Feliz has a 3.52 ERA, despite six runs given up in his past 6⅓ innings.
“Every time [injuries or trades] take somebody else from here, a lot of people say we’re done,” Cervelli said. “They took [Mark] Melancon. They took [Francisco] Liriano. And we're still here. I hope he’s fine. But we’re going to keep battling, because we’ve got one mission.”
For the second night in a row, the Pirates (67-66) received a strong performance from their starting pitcher — this time two runs over six innings from right-hander Ivan Nova — and saw wild-card contenders St. Louis and Miami lose, yet failed to gain ground.
The Pirates bullpen surrendered four runs in the eighth, and another in the ninth.
“You’re not supposed to win every game by one,” said Cervelli, who walked three times. “We’ve got to score runs. [Nova] did everything he could. We didn’t score runs, so I think it’s our fault.”
Andrew McCutchen tied the score with a solo home run in the seventh, his 19th homer this season, but by the time Starling Marte chipped in another solo shot in the eighth it merely dented the Brewers’ lead. Marte had three of the Pirates’ nine hits, upping his average to .312.
Brewers starter Jimmy Nelson stocked the bases early and managed to maneuver around major damage. In 5⅓ innings, he gave up four runs and a season-high six walks, but only one run.
“We’ve got to find a way to score runs,” manager Clint Hurdle said, echoing Cervelli.
After failing to score or even advance a runner as far as third base in the series opener, the Pirates pushed across the first run Saturday. Josh Harrison singled leading off in the first, moved to second on a walk, to third on a fielder’s choice and scored on Gregory Polanco’s sacrifice fly.
The offense squandered several opportunities, stranding eight runners on base through six frames.
Nova, who left his previous start because of right hip tightness, carried into the game a 4-0 record and 2.87 ERA in five starts for the Pirates. He joined left-hander Dave LaPoint (1988) as the only pitchers over the past 75 seasons to win at least four of their first five starts with the Pirates.
Saturday, the Pirates lost for the first time behind Nova, who did not factor in the decision. He worked swiftly the first two times through the order, using 59 pitches through five scoreless innings, and saved a run by fielding a dribbler and flipping it with his glove to home plate for the out.
“He gave us the start we were looking for,” Hurdle said.
Both runs charged to Nova came on Chris Carter’s two-out, two-run clout in the sixth. Nova had nearly escaped the inning, which began with a leadoff double, but he hung a first-pitch curveball to Carter.
“Only one pitch," Cervelli said. “That’s it.”
Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.
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