Originally posted on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 8/7/12

The Pirates entered the night 53-0 when leading a game after seven innings. That’s how good the back end of the bullpen has been (plus some luck, since the few times the ‘pen blew a lead the offense managed to bail them out).

All good things must come to an end, unfortunately, and that’s what happened on Tuesday. The Pirates were poised to win their third in a row in exciting, comeback fashion…and then it all went down the drain when the bullpen had an uncharacteristically brutal night.

Jeff Karstens was hit pretty hard early on (including a liner off his backside in the first inning) but managed to satisfy the bare minimum requirements for a quality start. He didn’t walk anyone and struck out four, which helped consolidate his eight hits allowed (including two doubles and a homer) into three runs over six innings. Good job by Jeff to keep the Bucs in the game when he wasn’t having one of his best nights.

Meanwhile, plenty of Pirates were reaching base in the early innings, but the Bucs didn’t capitalize as much as they should’ve. They got big days from the top of the order (two hits each from Andrew McCutchen and Starling Marte, plus three from Travis Snider) but everyone else combined for only two total (doubles by Clint Barmes and Michael McKenry). McCutchen drove in runs in the first and third to match Arizona’s runs in the top half of those innings, but the Snakes went back on top in the fourth and the Bucs missed a few chances to tie.

Still, it felt like they were on the verge of breaking through, and they did just that in the seventh. Marte led off with a remarkably impressive blast to center for his first homer at PNC Park, tying the game. Snider and Cutch then followed with hits, and Neil Walker poked a sac fly to score Snider and put the Bucs on top. Jason Grilli warmed in the bullpen, and it seemed like the Pirates were in good shape.

Not so much. Grilli, who has been dynamite all season, just had a miserable night. All four batters he faced got hits, and the fourth was a three-run homer to put Arizona ahead. Jared Hughes had a messy ninth as well, allowing three more. Chris Johnson (formerly of the Astros) homered in both innings.

Nothing’s automatic. The Pirates’ bullpen has been overdue for a little regression. Every team loses games like this in gut-punch fashion, and the Bucs have been fortunate to avoid them up until this point. They’re terrible, but they happen. Unless Grilli has suddenly lost everything that made him a strikeout machine up to this point in the season, this is just an unfortunate blip on the screen.

In better news, the Reds, Braves, and Cardinals all lost…so the Bucs didn’t lose any ground in the division or wild card races.

DBacks 10, Pirates 4 / Box / 2012 Record: 62-47 / Next: Wednesday, vs. DBacks, 7:05

MVP: McCutchen (+.298) / LVP: Grilli (-.705) / Key play: Johnson’s HR

©2012 Raise the Jolly Roger. All Rights Reserved.

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