Rangers right-hander Neftali Feliz is back from the disable list after missing the past six weeks with an axillary abscess on his right side, but he won’t be stepping back into the closer role.
In his extended absence Shawn Tolleson grabbed hold of ninth-inning duties, converting 11 straight save chances with a 1.65 ERA since May 20, so Feliz will be worked back into the bullpen mix as a setup man.
And that role suits him better at this point anyway, because the former Rookie of the Year winner and All-Star closer hasn’t been the same since undergoing Tommy John elbow surgery and struggled this season before going on the disabled list.
2019 has been one long nightmare for the Pirates. They’re in last place in the NL Central, have had multiple clubhouse fights, and can’t stop getting into bench-clearing incidents. The embarrassment continued on Sunday as the club lost 16-6 to the Cubs, suffering a three-game series sweep in Chicago.
One of those 16 runs the Pirates allowed was particularly noteworthy. In the bottom of the third inning, with the game tied at 5-5, the Cubs had runners on first and second with two outs. Tony Kemp hit a triple to right field, allowing both Ben Zobrist and Jason Heyward to score to make it 7-5. The Pirates thought one of the Cubs’ base runners didn’t touch third base on their way home. Reliever Michael Feliz attempted to make an appeal throw to third base, but it was way too high for Erik González to catch, so Kemp scored easily on the error.
The Pirates lost Friday’s game to the Cubs 17-8 and Saturday’s game 14-1. They were outscored 47-15 in the three-game series. According to Baseball Reference, since 1908, the Pirates never allowed 14+ runs in three consecutive games and only did it two games in a row twice before this series, in 1949 and in 1950. The Cubs scored 14+ in three consecutive games just one other time, in 1930.