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What’s on Tap: Previewing Wednesday’s action

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Jameson Taillon, your city needs you. The 67-69 Pirates have lost eight games in a row, falling an insurmountable 21 games out of first place in the NL Central. They’re also now 5.5 games out of the second NL Wild Card slot and even the injury-plagued Mets are closer to that than the Pirates are.

The Pirates, simply, haven’t been hitting. While they scored seven runs in Tuesday’s loss and six runs in Monday’s loss, the club has been shut out three times during their current eight-game skid, including twice by the lowly Brewers. The pitching has been abysmal, yielding an aggregate 38 runs over their last four games.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the team’s failure, however, may be closer Tony Watson. The Pirates traded soon-to-be free agent Mark Melancon to the Nationals on July 30, opening up the door for Watson to take over as the closer. To that point, Watson had a 2.64 ERA and a 39/15 K/BB ratio in 44 1/3 innings, mostly serving as the set-up man for Melancon. Since taking over as the closer, Watson has a 5.02 ERA and a 10/5 K/BB ratio in 14 1/3 innings. He’s given up five home runs, including three in the ninth inning on Tuesday night to the Cardinals in a devastating 9-7 loss.

There are 26 games left in the regular season for the Pirates. Let’s hypothetically and very generously say they go 16-10 (.615), putting them at 83-79. They would need the Giants to go 8-16 (.333) or worse or the Cardinals to go 9-16 (.360) or worse, and the Mets to go 9-14 (.391) or worse. Furthermore, the Marlins (six games out) could win no more than 14 of their remaining 23 games (.607). Similarly, the Rockies (7.5 games out) could win no more than 16 of their remaining 24 (.667). In other words, in order for the Pirates to sneak into the postseason, they need four out of five teams in the NL Wild Card race to hit the skids starting now.

Note: Records used are prior to Wednesday afternoon’s games.

The odds are against them, but stranger things have happened in September. Ask the 2007 Mets. Taillon starts for the Buccos tonight at home against the Cardinals’ Mike Leake in a 7:05 PM EDT start.

The rest of Wednesday’s action…

Atlanta Braves (Mike Foltynewicz) @ Washington Nationals (Stephen Strasburg), 7:05 PM EDT

Toronto Blue Jays (Marcus Stroman) @ New York Yankees (Bryan Mitchell), 7:05 PM EDT

Houston Astros (Doug Fister) @ Cleveland Indians (Carlos Carrasco), 7:10 PM EDT

Philadelphia Phillies (Jeremy Hellickson) @ Miami Marlins (Andrew Cashner), 7:10 PM EDT

Chicago Cubs (Mike Montgomery) @ Milwaukee Brewers (Matt Garza), 8:10 PM EDT

Kansas City Royals (Danny Duffy) @ Minnesota Twins (Kyle Gibson), 8:10 PM EDT

San Francisco Giants (Albert Suarez) @ Colorado Rockies (Jorge De La Rosa), 8:40 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (David Price) @ San Diego Padres (Jarred Cosart), 9:10 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Robbie Ray) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (Brock Stewart), 10:10 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (A.J. Griffin) @ Seattle Mariners (Ariel Miranda), 10:10 PM EDT

Maddon: Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch again for Angels this year

Shohei Ohtani
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Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch again this season for the Los Angeles Angels after straining his right forearm in his second start, manager Joe Maddon says.

Ohtani likely will return to the Angels’ lineup as their designated hitter this week, Maddon said Tuesday night before the club opened a road series against the Seattle Mariners.

The Angels’ stance on Ohtani is unsurprising after the club announced he had strained the flexor pronator mass near the elbow of his pitching arm. The two-way star’s recovery from the strain requires him to abstain from throwing for four to six weeks, which covers most of the shortened 2020 season.

“I’m not anticipating him pitching at all this year,” Maddon said. “Any kind of throwing program is going to be very conservative.”

Ohtani was injured Sunday in the second inning of his second start since returning to the mound following Tommy John surgery in late 2018. Ohtani issued five walks during the 42-pitch inning against the Houston Astros, with his velocity dropping later in the frame.

The arm injury is another obstacle in Ohtani’s path to becoming the majors’ first true two-way player in decades. He made 10 mound starts as a rookie in 2018 before injuring his elbow, but he served as the Angels’ regular designated hitter last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Ohtani has pitched in only three games since June 2018, but the Angels still believe in Ohtani’s ability to be a two-way player, Maddon said.

“I’m seeing that he can,” Maddon said. “We’ve just got to get past the arm maladies and figure that out. But I’ve seen it. He’s just such a high-end arm, and we’ve seen what he can do in the batter’s box. Now maybe it might get to the point where he may choose to do one thing over the other and express that to us. I know he likes to hit. In my mind’s eye, he’s still going to be able to do this.”

The veteran manager believes Ohtani will benefit from a full spring training and a normal season. Ohtani wasn’t throwing at full strength for a starter when the coronavirus pandemic shut down spring training in March because he wasn’t expected to pitch until May as he returned from surgery.

“Going into a regular season with a normal number of starts and all the things that permit guys to be ready for a year, that’s what we need to see is some normalcy before you make that kind of determination,” Maddon said.

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