Derek Shelton has rarely had a repeat lineup this year as he tries to navigate his rookie season as a manager with a Pittsburgh Pirates club that has struggled.
So, while the lineup card he submits Saturday for the middle game of a weekend series against the visiting Milwaukee Brewers can’t be easily predicted, Shelton got a message from his general manager Friday that many of the names he has at his disposal could be around for a while.
“I really do believe there’s a lot of players on this team who will be part of our team when we’re good,” Pirates GM Ben Cherington said, adding that he’s “excited about that.”
Cherington said he and Shelton will have to help the Pirates maintain a positive outlook and “stay in a good frame of mind. … The best players and the best teams are mentally tough, and this is part of developing that mental toughness, still show up the next day and get better.”
Pittsburgh got a reprieve from the tough season Friday with a 7-2 win in the series opener against Milwaukee. It halted a four-game losing streak and was just the Pirates’ fifth win.
“We’re just trying to have fun,” said left fielder Bryan Reynolds, who was 3-for-4 with a homer and four RBIs Friday. “Obviously, this isn’t the start anybody wants, but that’s in the past. We’re just going to move forward.”
One sour note for the Pirates came when closer Keone Kela left after five pitches in the ninth because of tightness in his forearm.
The Brewers — whose loss Friday spoiled manager Craig Counsell’s 50th birthday — aren’t used to losing to Pittsburgh. They had been 8-1 in the teams’ previous nine meetings and 18-5 in the previous 23.
Overall, Milwaukee is 4-4 on a 10-game, 11-day road trip.
“There’s some frustration for everybody on the team,” said Brewers right-hander Josh Lindblom (1-0, 6.62 ERA), who is scheduled to face Pittsburgh left-hander Derek Holland (0-1, 7.36 ERA) Saturday.
“I think a lot of it is inconsistency. It’s kind of like my season: You see some really, really good stuff, and you see some really, really bad stuff. It’s kind of about meshing those two together and being consistent.
“I’d say the reason guys are frustrated right now is because of the inconsistency they’re having, whether it be at the plate, whether it be on the mound. You don’t want to make excuses, but this is a different season. It’s hard for hitters because they can’t go into (the clubhouse) between at-bats and watch video to make adjustments. The preparation is a lot different. It’s tough on those guys to have to make adjustments, in a shortened season, without the tools they usually use.”
Lindblom has struck out a career-high eight batters in each of his past two starts.
He made his Brewers debut July 27 against Pittsburgh, getting a no-decision while giving up two runs and three hits in 3 2/3 innings, with three walks and five strikeouts.
Holland will be making his 300th big league appearance.
In his most recent outing, he pitched two scoreless innings in relief Tuesday against Cleveland. In his last start, Aug. 8 against Detroit, he tied a dubious club record by giving up five home runs, including four in the first inning. In all, he allowed nine runs in five-plus innings.
Against Milwaukee, Holland is 1-0 with a 2.05 ERA in 12 career appearances, three of them starts.
–Field Level Media