Apr. 18—MLB over the past two seasons has instituted a variety moves intended to shorten games. Perhaps the Pittsburgh Pirates should propose eliminating the first inning.
The first inning continued to haunt the Pirates on Saturday in Milwaukee. The Brewers scored five runs in the bottom of the first and cruised to a 7-1 win.
Veteran Trevor Cahill wasn't necessarily hit hard, but his season ERA climbed to 9.69 mostly as a result of a first inning in which he allowed six hits. That improved the season first-inning batting average of Pirates opponents to .373 and raised the Pirates' season first-inning ERA to 12.60.
"It makes it tough when I feel like every single outing the leadoff guy seems to reach base, and you're out of the stretch right away," Cahill said. "You're in some trouble, so it makes it tough. It takes a lot out of you."
Cahill's first-inning ERA is up to 18.00 (one of Milwaukee's runs in the bottom of Saturday's first was unearned because of an Anthony Alford error). Cahill (0-2) has allowed a first-inning run in each of his three starts for the Pirates, but he's hardly the only pitcher having trouble when the game begins. Pirates opponents have scored during the first inning in 10 of 15 games this season.
"The first inning, especially for me, you're always trying to figure out what my stuff's doing, the movement and whatnot," said Cahill, whose career splits indicate the first inning has been when he's at or near his best. "I wouldn't say it's a lack of being ready."
Saturday was the second time this season the Pirates (6-9) allowed five first-inning runs. For basis of comparison, 11 teams entered Saturday not having allowed as many as five first-inning runs total for the season.
No MLB team has allowed more first-inning hits (25), first-inning walks (12) or first-inning runs (23) than the Pirates. No other team entered Saturday having allowed more than 14 first-inning runs this season.
Pirates pitchers have allowed an MLB-most five first-inning home runs, but that wasn't the case Saturday. All of Milwaukee's first-inning hits were singles. Five came in succession after two outs as the Brewers made it through their batting order.
"Trevor's line looks worse than how he pitched personally," manager Derek Shelton said.
"I think he ran into some difficult luck tonight."
The Brewers did have two extra-base hits off Cahill in the second inning. They scored twice to take a 7-0 lead and all but end this game before sunset.
The bright spot for the Pirates is Cahill and relievers Sean Poppen and Clay Holmes allowed just four more hits over the final six innings (two innings from each).
The Pirates' bullpen has been charged with one run over its past 19 2/3 innings.
But the offense managed just seven singles and one walk Saturday against veteran Brett Anderson and two relievers. Anderson (2-1) struck out three in six innings.
Bryan Reynolds and Adam Frazier each had two hits for the Pirates, who had won five of their previous seven. A common thread between the lone three defeats over the past nine days? Allowing first-inning runs.
Despite a respectable season run differential of just minus-2 in innings two through eight, the Pirates have been outscored 23-8 in first innings.
"That's just how the game's going to go sometimes," Reynolds said. "If they score in the first inning, it's just something you've got to deal with. I just think we just a little off-balance and hit a lot of groundballs tonight. But we will be fine."
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Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .