Mitch Keller was outstanding over seven innings as the Pirates beat Boston, 4-1, to end their season-opening road trip with a record of 4-2. The win gave the Pirates a sweep of the Betts-less and Bogaerts-less Red Sox (there’s a lesson in there).
Keller dominated the Sox through six innings, giving up just one hit, as the Pirates took a 4-0 lead. With two outs in the seventh, though, a misplayed fly ball and two infield hits made it 4-1 with runners at the corners.
At that point, Derek Shelton resorted to deep strategy. Boston sent the left-handed Reese McGuire up to pinch hit for Yu Chang (bet you didn’t see that coming). With two lefties in the bullpen, Shelton left Keller, who was over 100 pitches, in the game. The idea was to fool the Sox into thinking he had put a lefty in, so they’d replace McGuire with a right-handed hitter. But the Sox saw through the strategy when their spy camera in center showed that number 23 was still on the mound. McGuire then hit a game-tying home run inside the foul pole.
Then Shelton’s real strategy was revealed: instant replay. It turned out the ball was foul. That set Keller up, as planned, to sneak a third strike past McGuire.
Keller finished with seven innings, 107 pitches, four hits, two walks and seven strikeouts.
The offense got enough done. Carlos Santana started the scoring in the fourth with his first Pirate home run and RBI. In the sixth, Bryan Reynolds doubled and came around on an infield hit by Andrew McCutchen and a bunt single by Ke’Bryan Hayes.
The last two runs came in the seventh. Jason Delay doubled and Oneil Cruz reached on a fielder’s choice. Reynolds flied out to score Delay and Santana doubled Cruz home. Prior to the double, Cruz was involved in a collision at third and got kicked in the eye. He stayed in at the time but came out later. He’s currently being evaluated.
The offense wasn’t without its bad moments. The Pirates loaded the bases in the first with one out, but Hayes and Jack Suwinski both popped out. In the ninth, they got runners to second and third with one out when Reynolds and McCutchen both reached and pulled off a double steal. Reynolds got caught between third and home on a bouncer back to the mound and McCutchen, channeling Andy LaRoche, got caught between second and third after Reynolds was tagged out, for a double play.
The foolishness on the bases didn’t matter, though. With Colin Holderman and David Bednar unavailable, Rob Zastryzny and Duane Underwood, Jr., finished up on a grand total of 13 pitches. Zastryzny worked a perfect eighth and Underwood had a five-pitch ninth with the help of a double play. Keller got his first win of the year and Underwood picked up his second career save.
INFORMATIONAL NOTE: Indianapolis was rained out. They’re scheduled for two tomorrow.
Having followed the Pirates fanatically since 1965, Wilbur Miller is one of the fast-dwindling number of fans who’ve actually seen good Pirate teams. He’s even seen Hall-of-Fame Pirates who didn’t get traded mid-career, if you can imagine such a thing. His first in-person game was a 5-4, 11-inning win at Forbes Field over Milwaukee (no, not that one). He’s been writing about the Pirates at various locations online for over 20 years. It has its frustrations, but it’s certainly more cathartic than writing legal stuff. Wilbur is retired and now lives in Bradenton with his wife and three temperamental cats.
I am teaching my kids about rhyming words. Todays example is going to be “Stellar Keller”. Thanks Wilbur.
After that gutsy give-me-the-ball 7th inning, still hitting 97 at like 105 pitches in , and seeing that pumped up reaction in the dugout after the third out, I hereby anoint you…….
I sure wish they would’ve extended him last year
The O’Neil drama in St Luis is little interesting, wonder what the fall out if any might be..
O’neil is so bulked up from lifting and squats, I think it appears he’s not giving max effort when it really was his max baserunning. But it’s good Cards have some internal drama.
Pretty bold to call out a player like that after an internal discussion.
Yeah, I don’t think Shelton would do that.
I don’t think many managers would. Certainly not in the manner that Marmol did.
I know 22 doesn’t have the same power, speed & impact bat he once had but hot damn it’s fun watching Greybeard Cutch work deep counts, make some plays in the field & just figure out ways to get on base. Who knows if September Cutch still plays like April Cutch but hats off to BOB NUTTING – seriously – for bringing a Bucco legend back who’s helped contribute to a fun 4-2 start. Raise it 🏴☠️
Right on man.
I love seeing the recent old dude resurgence in general. Feels like it was bound to happen with improvements to health and fitness; guys who are willing to put in the work can extend the life of their baseball bodies *without* resorting to steroids.
The game is richer when it’s not a conveyor belt spitting out dudes the minute they turn 30.
But what the hell was that base-running blunder during the run-down play late in the game? That was Rookie-DUMB!
He thought Delay was back on 3B. Not a good move but a Split second decision
It doesn’t matter if Delay is back or not, a veteran has ZERO excuses for leaving the bag.
The last good base runner we had was Pedro. I was hoping for better, but . . .
He has a 32% walk rate, which is pretty wild. All their hitters need to be watching him.
That was Keller’s 3rd career GS with at least 7 IP. All have come since July 11, 2022.
See brother? It was never mental with him.
The minute they actually developed a repertoire that brought success his confidence magically appeared.
Put guys in positions to succeed!
Uh wait a second. If McGuire’s ball stays fair, we’ve got 2 blown wins in a row for Keller. And his psyche comes in play. “Why can’t I can’t I hold a late inning lead” starts to creep in. Keller should never have pitched to McGuire imo.
It was a foul ball, that’s it, not sure why there needs to be any coulda, woulda, shoulda…
That’s Shelton’s job…..to remove the coulda, woulda, shoulda scenarios as best as possible. There was so much more risk than upside in letting Keller stay in. It was a big gamble…..he won this time…..but that doesn’t mean it was the move that 30 out of 30 managers would have made. Far from it.
Because it’s more fun to litigate the coulda woulda shoulda into nothing!
Clearly not the old Keller. For all the talk of veteran leadership, he’s the guy setting the biggest example. He’s overcome a ton of struggles.
I’m guessing if this was a late season game of importance, Keller would’ve never faced McGuire. However, at this stage, Keller is still developing and Shelton wanted to see how his young ace would handle the highest leverage AB of the afternoon. Just my take and of course I could be wrong.
Reese McGuire also stinks. Probably as simple as that.
What a pathetic Red Sox club.
I haven’t paid much attention to them, so I was taken aback to see McGuire, Chang and others playing for them. It looks like a more expensive Cherington team. Wtf are they doing?
Not like the Pens are a well oiled machine, either!
Every game counts the same. That’s unacceptable.
Shelton was trying to win the game, and his decision is perfectly defensible if you think it through. Wilbur’s preferred strategy of bringing in a lefty would have resulted in a worse pitcher (Zastryzny) pitching against a better hitter (Duvall) without the platoon advantage. Maybe that’s a better decision, given Keller’s pitch count, but Shelton’s choice is far from “unacceptable.”
If Duvall comes in, you walk him. Next hitter was the backup C, who has to stay in with McGuire gone.
It’s actually questionable that Cora didn’t go straight to Duvall. Much better than McGuire regardless of the P.
You don’t put the tying run on (load the bases) and bring go ahead run to the plate. It’s Fenway. Too many 340′ Hrs and doubles happen.
Those sorts of formulas went out many years ago. If you end up facing the other team’s weakest hitter in a key spot, sure, you do it.
I didn’t look at who was on their bench. But it doesn’t matter. There’s a MLB hitter somewhere on that bench.
I guess they’re not the 2020-22 Pirates.
I think leaving Keller in to face McGuire is perfectly defensible if the alternative is purposely putting the tying run on base.
Nothing like the optimism of starting out 4-2. Even Wilbur is sarcastically brilliant in his joy!
Lord, let us pray “let it continue”!! Both the Bucs and Wilbur!
“At that point, Derek Shelton resorted to deep strategy….”
That paragraph was gold! 🤣🤣🤣🤣
Yes Baldrick, he had a cunning and subtle plan.
I’ve so far been content with Shelton’s pitcher usage. He’s seemed to show trust in his starters, while also not going with what seems scripted usage of his relievers.
A bullpen that gives up one homer in their first 18 innings is gonna make an awful lot of managers look smart. 😉
Sure. It’s likely over analyzing at this point, but he’s been more adept at yanking a reliever sooner than what had appeared to be his custom, and going matchup based. At least in normal circumstances, I’d have expected him to let someone like Moreta try to finish out his full inning than pull him for the third out. Let Hernandez get the one out and be done. Also feel De Jong would’ve maybe had an offered “bounce back” appearance by now. Who knows, still early and we’ll see. I’m actually interested in seeing what happens when Robert Stephenson is “ready”
Seems like De Jong will be the odd man out with Crowe taking over the long man/mop up inning role. But roster management dictates that Moreta gets option.
De Jong would probably clear waivers. Z has no options, so when Stephenson’s rehab runs out, Moreta would be the only option to option. But he’s been key for them so far. It’d seriously suck to send him down.
Wil Crowe. He has 1 option left. So, he’s an option lol
So, I’ll be curious to see if they go the Pirates of old route and option Moreta, or they DFA either De Jong or Stephenson, or option Crowe.
Moreta has completely flipped his approach since last year: Fangraphs.
2022 Cin – FB 55.3%, SL 23.5%, CH 21.2%
2023 Pgh – FB 16.4%, SL 63.6%, CH 20.0%
2022 Cin – Soft 19.2%, Med 47.1%, Hard 33.7%
2023 Pgh – Soft 33.3%, Med 66.7%, Hard 0%
SSS, but I go with this kid and this new approach to getting people out. Is this another Marin +
At the very least, you want to find out how this is gonna play out. In the bigs, not in AAA.
And, yeah, Marin is looking better and better.
why are we so invested in Stephenson?
I don’t care all that much, but he did pitch well last year. I doubt they’re going to want to waive him. If they do, it wouldn’t be something to scream about, although I’d rather have him than De Jong.
Maybe his primary directive has changed versus the last two years and he’s allowed and encouraged to try now? 🤔😁
The best thing so far has been him going with Moreta, the Zazzer and even R5 guy instead of reflexively going with the tenure guys, like he did last year. He didn’t even wait for De Jong and Crowe to continue their bad springs into the season. They could easily be 0-6 if he effed up the BP like he did late last year.
And DUJ’s been really good. Didn’t expect that.
The whole team including Shelton are on a winning streak, and the last two games have been examples of how good this team can be with good pitching and defense.
The biggest obstacle a manager has to overcome is knowing when not to try to be too smart.
Pure karma for calling the Pirates hodgepodge of nothingness.
Good Lord your Shelton bashing is getting rather annoying especially after such a good series. They’ll probably be a lot of chances for you to get in your shots at him but currently it seems a bit misplaced.
I completely agree. It’s easy to second guess the manager after the game. I would love to hear what these people would do in real time rather than after the game when everybody knew the correct thing to do. Some people will blame DS no matter what he does. I’m not sure how good of a manager DS is, but blaming him for the last few years when the roster was just awful and the bullpen was pathetic is hard to understand.
Good lord, are you getting offended? Good lord.
A totally asinine reply but you go man.
I guess you needed some smilies? I thought you would get my sarcasm. Oh well. My apologies then, sir. I did not mean to offend you. 😁😁😁
No problem it’s all good.
It’s always good when it is good. 😇😇😇
I definitely see your point, but WM has certainly made it clear where he stands on DS’s abilities as a Manager. Furthermore, DS did go against what is common practice these days by leaving Keller in to face McGuire. In this case, I would say Wilbur has a legitimate argument, even though it worked out for DS.
I’m not so sure it was legitimate as Keller was not being hit hard and having him get through that tough spot has real value.
I certainly agree there’s value to letting Keller work through adversity in that spot. But my point still stands, Keller was over 100 pitches and most Managers go left on left in that spot.
It does not have any value beyond one out. This “learn how to persevere” crap has to stop. We need to win games. Unacceptable.
Plus, if Shelton brings in Zastryzny, Cora almost certainly counters by bringing in Duvall. Shelton’s other option would have been to just bring in Crowe (or Underwood/DeJong, but Crowe was the one who was warming) to face McGuire. I’m really not sure there’s a clear right answer between these options. Keller is over 100 pitches, which isn’t ideal, but he hadn’t been hit hard, he’s the best pitcher of those options, you’re not going to get the platoon advantage no matter who pitches, and this way the hitter is McGuire rather than the much more dangerous Duvall. I guess he could have gone to Moreta/Holderman/Bednar for the third day in a row, but I think it’s reasonable to decide those guys would get the day off. All things considered, leaving in Keller is definitely defensible.
Personally, I’d prefer to read more engagement with the substance of an issue and less knee-jerk, snarky condescension, but I get that 99% of the fun of writing for a blog is getting to feel superior to the professionals.
His Shelton and BC bashing can be annoying, but this time I thought it was hilarious.
I don’t put much stock in Shelton’s managing the last few years. Remember this team was not trying to win so the decision making was probably scripted to an extent. They were doing some development work at the MLB level the last few years.
It’s funny, and ironical, the same people that want to defend keeping three young hitters in the lineup (and on the roster last year) with k-rates over 30% are the same ones routinely criticizing the manager on BP usage and game strategy.
I agree. I thought Keller was doing fine and deserved the opportunity to finish his final inning. Pitch count was a little too high but it really didn’t feel like he was getting hit hard until the foul ball.
Edit to just add I’m a firm believer of Shelton being incapable of leading the team to PS. I believe the Pirates need a new manager to really start competing. But I still think this decision to leave Keller in was not worthy of criticism.
Nah, I find it very amusing and apropos.
Break up the Bucs
I KNOW, right!?
Not sure how sustainable this recipe is going forward with this lineup but was great fun to get a sweep on the road.
I’d love to see Keller have a breakout season.
His agent & I share your wishes!