Johan Oviedo was unstoppable today.
The right-hander made his second start of the season, throwing 6.2 shutout innings with no walks, five hits, and five strikeouts. That performance, plus a Canaan Smith-Njigba triple, helped the Pirates beat the White Sox 1-0 on Sunday.
Oviedo got some protection from the Pirates offense in the bottom of the second. Smith-Njigba tripled to center with one out, and scored the lone run of the game on a sacrifice fly by Jack Suwinski.
From there, it was all Oviedo, who allowed just one hit until the fifth inning. That’s when he ran into a bit of trouble, putting runners on second and third with one out. Oviedo was in the 60 pitch range at this point, and Derek Shelton stuck with him in a high leverage situation.
Oviedo responded by striking out Seby Zavala for the second out, before getting Elvis Andrus to pop out to center to escape the jam.
Andrus had a rough day. There was some confusion as to whether the umpire had called a strike for a pitch clock violation on Andrus for not getting in the box on time. It turned out that Andrus was awarded a timeout, but when Oviedo threw a first pitch strike, everyone watching thought it was 0-2. The next pitch was a check swing strike by Andrus, which hit him, and caused confusion as to whether he was out. That’s when it was learned that there was no first strike. Oviedo wasn’t phased, getting Andrus to pop out on the next pitch.
In the next inning, Andrus was called for a violation for standing in the outfield grass. That turned a 2-2 strike into a 3-1 ball, which led to an Oneil Cruz walk. More on that later. Andrus was having a rough inning, leading to two key call reversals. We’ve certainly seen players having a brain fart on the field at PNC Park before. One of the more notable plays I’m speaking about was almost reimagined today. The difference was that Oviedo was locked in and having none of it.
given recent history i dont think there will be a more hilarious 1-3 putout this entire season pic.twitter.com/AclM9NO2Wy
— Justice delos Santos (@justdelossantos) April 9, 2023
Oviedo stayed locked in during the sixth inning, including making a nice between the legs play to get the first out, before getting through the inning while in the mid-80s pitch range.
Oviedo doesn't skip PFPs. pic.twitter.com/3uPzp7Q9GV
— Justice delos Santos (@justdelossantos) April 9, 2023
From there, Oviedo got two outs in the seventh, before turning the ball over to Dauri Moreta with the tying run at second. Moreta did his thing, getting Yasmani Grandal to strike out on a very generous call at the top of the zone.
Colin Holderman came on for his fourth hold, and David Bednar picked up his fourth save of the season, giving the Pirates the series win over the White Sox.
The downside came in the sixth inning, after Cruz drew his walk. Cruz stole second and moved to third on a single by Bryan Reynolds. He went for home on a ground ball hit by Ke’Bryan Hayes, but an awkward slide into home plate resulted in him turning his ankle. After the game, it was revealed that he had fractured his left ankle, which is obviously a blow to the hot start the Pirates have seen.
The Pirates, now 6-3, will take on the Astros tomorrow in the start of a three game series at home.
**Prior to the game, I pointed out the strikeout issues from the bottom of the lineup. Canaan Smith-Njigba and Jack Suwinski have been two of the biggest culprits. They combined for the lone run today, and combined for one strikeout between them. It was a much better day at the plate for Suwinski, who went 0-for-1 with a walk, and a sacrifice fly to score Njigba.
**The Pirates had two hits on the day. The triple from Smith-Njigba was capitalized upon, and they were close to scoring after the Reynolds hit. While they didn’t have much offense, they did threaten more than the White Sox, who had six hits on the day.
**I continue to be impressed with Moreta coming up big in those situations where he’s bailing out the starter. He won’t be perfect, but if he can continue this level of performance, it’s almost like having a closer who can come in to pitch in the middle of the game.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.
Cruz injury is a bad one and I feel for the kid. Although, it is again the fault of not coaching properly. No outs ball hit to third.. no reason to run none.. so all of you little key board coaches.. the answer is no reason to run. so many ways to score from third. I am not even going to get into the type of slide that should of been tried. But in my opinion it boils down to coaching.
Oh, I thought there was a rule in place that prevented a catcher from blocking the plate. Guess I am wrong about that.
The Pirates get off to a great start to the season and then Cruz goes down with a broken ankle. Seems like the baseball gods are against them. I wish that Cruz has a speedy recovery and can still play this season.
PLEASE! NO MORE Gregory Polanco school of sliding!!
I made a similar comment on a Bucco Facebook group today. Got a “too soon.”
Tim, I love your comment that we have a middle inning “saver” in Moreta.
The brother has filthy schtuff. remember when the “whiners” wee out in force about this guy as a dumpster-dive addition 🤣 😂😂
The Newman trade paying off with good dividends so far. He had solid K/BB/9 numbers for Cincy, but HR’s were high.
Everybody notice when you play well you get better calls and that’s especially true for balls and strikes.
I hate that running on contact play. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Pirates score on it and now our unicorn has a broken ankle!
I never understood when a guy at 2nd base would run when the ball was hit to SS. I mean the ball is in front of you and you can clearly see that you cannot advance but because the contact play is on you run anyway.
And I might add that nobody is on 1st so it’s not like you are forced. Players should be allowed to make a decision whether to go or not because most times it works out badly like today.
He hit it to third. I was always taught to run when it gets hit behind you.
All ground balls will be hit behind you, eventually!
Oneil….get yourself better, take however long it takes, and come back with a vengeance for the second half…
Next man up…..show that all the depth this organization has been slowly adding to and simmering is ready to plug in and run when and where needed.
Let’s beat the Astros 👍
Had a win with great hitting, had a win with great pitching.
But I have to admit, it’s kind of ironic how the veteran pitchers suck more than the young ones. And it’s been like 10 games and I already just don’t want to watch Velasquez starting.
Anyhow… bummed about Cruz’s injury. Wishing him a very speedy recovery.
Reynolds hitting extremely well allows for young players to NOT have to feel they must carry the team. Suwinski may come out of his slump. Canaan may be on his way with the triple and run. McCutchen and Santana have added value.
Going to be interesting to see how team responds to the adversity of losing Cruz. Especially with a wounded and sub.500 World Champion Astros coming to town.
Hard to say an inter-league series in April is crucial, but this one somehow feels that way.
pitching is looking really good from our farm
looking forward to Burrows, Ortiz, Yohan, Yerry and Mlod join in a few weeks
Is it too early to say Moreta/Holderman/Bednar giving off some Watson-to-Melancon-to Grllli vibes?
(Yes, but fun to see so far)
Bednar was pretty amped up at the end of the game