Rookies square off in Mariners-Pirates matchup

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The host Pittsburgh Pirates and Seattle Mariners, meeting in an interleague series, are playing out the final days of the season looking ahead — well beyond the playoffs.

There are young players to evaluate, veterans to gauge, injuries to address and other decisions to think about.

The Pirates, however, are dealing with something they never expected: the arrest and placement on the restricted list of All-Star closer Felipe Vazquez.

The nature of Vazquez’s felony charges, related to an underage girl and computer pornography, prompted a team meeting with upper management before Tuesday’s game.

“We’re human beings. You can feel it in your stomach,” Pittsburgh pitcher Chris Archer said. “There’s definitely an uneasiness.”

Hours after Vazquez was jailed, the Pirates took the field and lost their fourth straight game, falling 6-0 to the Mariners. Pittsburgh has been outscored 53-15 during the four-game slide.

Pittsburgh has been playing with a watered-down lineup. Not only have various pitchers been shut down for the season because of injuries, but three position players — first baseman Josh Bell, center fielder Starling Marte and catcher Jacob Stallings — are out, and it might be questionable whether they will play again this season.

Presumably, hot-hitting rookie Bryan Reynolds, normally the left fielder but who has been filling in for Marte, will be back in the lineup Wednesday after getting a day off Tuesday.

“We need to show up in that (batter’s) box,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

Seattle rookie Kyle Lewis, who homered in four of his first six major league games, fell to earth some Tuesday, going 0-for-5 with four strikeouts and leaving five runners on base.

“There will be some bumps in the road along the way,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He’s going to struggle a little bit. He’ll have his games where he’ll strike out two or three times. It happens to all young players.”

In the middle game of the three-game series Wednesday, Seattle right-hander Justin Dunn (0-0, 27.00 ERA) is scheduled to face Pittsburgh right-hander Dario Agrazal (4-4, 4.91 ERA) in a matchup of rookies.

Dunn, 23, will be making his second big league appearance and start. He is a former first-round draft pick, in 2016 by the New York Mets out of Boston College.

He gave up no hits in two-thirds of an inning Sept. 12 against Cincinnati, but he walked five and allowed two earned runs as he could not escape the first inning.

“Justin is really wired the right way,” Servais said. “He takes his craft very seriously, and he wants to be great. Along the way, there are lessons you are going to learn, and I think he learned a very valuable one.”

Dunn’s teammates were highly supportive.

“That was awesome,” Dunn said. “It’s nice to know they have my back and know that I am better than that and can do better than that.”

Agrazal, 24, is highly experienced in comparison. He will be making his 14th appearance, all but one of them starts.

His last time out, Sept. 11 at San Francisco, Agrazal got a no-decision, giving up three runs and three hits in four-plus innings, with two strikeouts and a walk.

–Field Level Media

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