Jamie Gatlin \ Aug 20th, 2019
After a second-half slide, the Pittsburgh Pirates find themselves planning for 2020 and beyond. As the Pirates look to build for the future, it is a golden opportunity for young players to prove themselves. Although pitcher Steven Brault would not fall under that category since he made his debut in 2016, he has been a bright spot amid the Pirates struggles. After bouncing between the bullpen and rotation, the lefty has been impressive of late. As the Pirates pitching has struggled, Brault has excelled.
Coming into this season, the former Baltimore Oriole had never produced an ERA lower than 4.61 in three major league seasons. Last year Brault appeared in a career-high 45 games but walked 57 batters. As the Pirates were hit with seemingly never-ending injuries earlier this season, he was placed in the rotation and was ineffective.
Despite Brault’s early-season struggles he has emerged as the Pirates most efficient pitcher over the last two months. In his last ten starts, the California native has an ERA of 2.58. Brault has been using a fastball heavy approach and has improved his control.
So far this season Brault has been getting better with every start. In three August starts he is holding batters to a .169 average. In his previous start against the Cubs, he set a career-high in innings pitched with 7 and strikeouts with 8. Since the start of June, he has only allowed more than three earned runs in a start twice.
Additionally, coming into 2019, Brault had only thrown two quality starts in his career. So far this season he has three and is throwing strikes 61.8 percent of the time which is a career-high. He is also caused hitters to hit into 13 double plays, which is a new career-best. This has allowed Brault to minimize the damage when runners do get on base.
With the Pirates out of contention, Brault will get plenty of opportunities to prove himself down the stretch. Along with Mitch Keller, Joe Musgrove, and Chris Archer Pirates management will be looking to see who could be a fit in the rotation next season.
Furthermore, the end of the season will be a good test of how far Brault has come. The California native has never thrown more than 91.2 innings in the majors and is currently at 77.2. If he continues to be successful, then he should pass that mark within his next two to three starts.
As Brault tries to claim a spot in next years rotation, durability will be key. Regardless of how the season ends, his current stretch has been a welcoming sign. After years of struggling to establish himself, Brault has finally found sustained success in 2019. For the Pirates, they hope this is only the beginning as they build their next playoff team.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images