Derek Shelton and the Pittsburgh Pirates went with what is likely to be their lineup against left handers, for the time being, and initially it looked promising.
Ke’Bryan Hayes struck out to lead-off the game against Cincinnati Reds starter Nick Lodolo, but took nine pitches to do so. With two outs, Andrew McCutchen worked a six pitch walk before getting to third base on a Carlos Santana single that Reds’ right fielder Wil Myers bobbled. Conner Joe then bounced a ground ball up the middle to score McCutchen and give the Pirates the early lead. Oneil Cruz hit a short dribbler for an infield single to load the bases with Rodolfo Castro then striking out to end the threat.
Rich Hill took the mound for his first career start with the Pirates and mostly did Rich Hill things. Reds’ second baseman Jonathan India didn’t wait long to tie things up when he turned on a 86 MPH heater from Hill and deposited it into the left field stands. Hill wouldn’t let that bother him by striking out the next two batters. After a two-out double, the thing that sits in the back of everyone’s mind through sheer pessimism of following the Pirates happened. Recently traded and well-known Not-Slugger Kevin Newman stepped to the plate as the Reds’ DH. Newman crushed a fastball 405 FT at 105.7 MPH to left field for a 3-1 lead.
The Pirates broke through again in the third inning. With runners on first and second and one out, Cruz managed to hit a ball one-handed that he had to reach for up the middle at 93.5 MPH to score Santana from second and close the gap to 3-2.
From there, Hill and Lodolo kept adding zeroes to the scoreboard. Hill finished his evening with all the damage happening in the first inning. He’d complete five innings with seven strike outs to two walks, with only the three earned runs to go along with the three hits he gave up in the first. It was a good look at what should be expected of Hill this season, with keeping hitters off-balance using different arm angles and throwing various junk pitches. Lodolo managed to finish five innings himself with nine strike outs, even after having such an elevated pitch count early on.
Chase De Jong entered for the Pirates in the sixth, and it did not go well. It is far too early to harp on the little things, but this was not a very suitable scenario for bringing in a pitcher who struggles with strike outs and got by in 2022 mostly on batted ball luck. De Jong walked the first batter he faced on four pitches. Then gave up a single. After getting new Pirates’ Killer Newman to strike out, the Reds opted to bring in left-handed pinch hitter Jake Fraley. A middle-middle hanging slider was then given a front row seat in right field to make it 6-2.
De Jong came out for a second inning in the seventh and sent the Reds’ hitters down 1-2-3. Jose Hernandez made his Pirates and MLB debut with a scoreless eighth inning. Throwing 12 strikes on 15 pitches.
The Pirates offense didn’t have a single batter reach base across the final four innings after Lodolo left. Cruz ended the day 2-for-4 with two singles and a RBI. Santana and Joe combined to go 3-for-7 with a walk and a RBI.
Sunday will be a rubber match before the Pirates take of to Boston.
PIRATES @ REDS
Time: 1:40 PM EST
Pirates Starter: Vince Velasquez, (0-0, -.–)
Reds Starter: Graham Ashcraft, (0,0, -.–)
Velasquez notes: This will be Vince Velasquez’s first career start for the Pirates and the 137th of his career. In 2022, Velasquez spent the majority of his time in the Chicago White Sox bullpen throwing 75.1 innings across 27 appearances — including nine starts — while carrying a 4.78 ERA. His final start in spring training showed a little promise, and he’s likely to have an even longer leash now with the JT Brubaker injury news.
Raised in Cranberry Twp, PA, Jeff attended Kent State University and worked in Cleveland and Pittsburgh, before moving to New Orleans in September of 2012. His background is as an Engineering Designer, but he has always had a near unhealthy passion for Pittsburgh sports. Hockey and Baseball are his 1A and 1B, combined with his mathematical background, it's led to Jeff's desire in diving into analytics. Jeff is known as Bucs'N'Pucks in the comments, and began writing for Pirates Prospects in 2022 after contributing so many useful bits of information in the comment section.
Why is it that the players the pirates fail to sign when drafted become stars failed stars: Turner, Lodolo?
Turner is a no brainer drafted by the Pirates in the 20th Round of the 2011 Draft, No. 602. Went to college and became a first round pick, #13 to San Diego.
Lodolo was more complicated because he was drafted by the Pirates in 1s, #41 overall. Left that money on the table to play college and Cincy drafted him in the first round – I think No. 7. Possibly could have gotten $1.5+ from the Pirates, and I think he signed for $5.4 mil from Cincy. He bet on himself and went to a school blessed with coaching hierarchy – Jim Schlossnagle and pitching coach Kirk Saarloos at TCU.
Actually the Pirates didn’t have a base-runner in the final 5 innings, and Cincy pitchers recorded the last 16 outs in a row to end the game. During those 16 outs, only Choi hit a ball out of the IF for the final out! (And the gale force wind was blowing out!). Andy Haines what are you doing? Choi has got to be in the lineup every day……his bat will contribute.
I agree wholeheartedly. Some numbers from 2022 that could possibly assist DS – Barrels per PA %. Cruz was 8.9%, Suwinski 7.0%, Choi 6.7%, followed by Santana 6.3%, ‘Cutch 5.9%, Reynolds 5.2%, Castro 4.3%, Joe 3.0%, and Hayes 2.7%.
Defensively Hayes is +18 Outs Above Average, Santana is +3 OAA, Choi is +2 OAA, Suwinski is +1 OAA, and ‘Cutch is breakeven.
Lodolo started every batter in the first inning except Cruz with a 93-94 mph in the strike zone and most of them right down the middle and if I remember right they all took that first pitch for a strike except Cruz who got a breaking ball. The hitters have done this since Haines arrived on the scene and it doesn’t seem to work very well as a philosophy at least for the Pirates.
Lodolo is going to haunt us for the next 5-10 years, isn’t he?
Least we tried to sign him.
Way Too Early things I like & hope are trends:
*Batters working deeper counts, pesky at-bats. Shout out to Cutch & game one Bae in particular
*Using Holderman in the 8th & Jose Hernandez’s gas-throwing debut
*OCruz = impact bat PLUS figure-out-how-to-put-the-ball-in-play baseball IQ. Wow
Way Too Early things that concern me:
*SuwinsKy & Kastro. Rooting for them both but the sky-high K’s won’t be in keeping with a low-margin-of-error offensive formula to get us wins this year
*Staying way too long with Crowe/DeJong/Underwood based on last year familiarity not this year’s results
*Giving Hedges any AB’s from the 7th inning on. Pinch Hit him. You have a decent bench & then you have Delay on the bench to come in to catch after the PH. Dont’ be terrified about some 1-in-a-million chance you lose Delay to injury after that. Even if that long-shot scenario happened, we’re the Pirates, it’s ok to have an emergency catcher for an inning or two. Remember this part of the post. Shelton won’t do this and it will cost us games. (At least until Super Two 😆)
If they are going to break the series of 100 loss seasons, they can only lose 98 more. Gonna be touch and go!
The old Dick Mountain 86 MPH heater.
I have always been a fan of Rodolfo Castro, but his recent inability to put the ball in play is hurting the team and him. Last year with the Pirates he had 74K/22BB for a 3.36K/BB Rate in 278 PA.
The 3.36 K/BB Rate is slightly elevated, but came with 11 HR, an ISO of .194, fWAR of +0.9, and as a Rookie, it is expected that the K/BB will be high. But, he started 2023 with some ugly numbers in ST – 20K in only 58 PA, and then starts the regular season with 2 K in 3 AB. Something is just not right with him at the plate. Is he trying something new in 2023?
Rodolfo is a very streaky hitter.
In the spirit of finding at least one ray of light in every game, I’m going to walk away with this:
“ Jose Hernandez made his Pirates and MLB debut with a scoreless eighth inning. Throwing 12 strikes on 15 pitches.”
Nothing I hate more than a pitcher, esp a reliever, who either can’t or won’t throw strikes. And nothing better than one who will. If you don’t have any confidence that your stuff can get people out if you’re near the zone, well….let’s just say getting into hitter counts and putting freebies on base is not exactly gonna make what stuff you *do* have play up. 🙄
Well said. I was seated near Pirates dugout and as he was walking back to dugout he said a prayer of thanks and had a look of someone who knows they belong.
Not sure DS will trust him in a big moment, but if he keeps throwing like he did yesterday, it won’t be long until he feels compelled to see if the kid can do it with the game on the line.
Good for Newman, he’s probably sleeping with a smile on his face
I know Keith Law has to be ECSTATIC
I predicted that he will easily be a 2+ WAR player playing in that park, was laughed off….then again I thought he was gone be the starter. Just one game but he hit two balls in the air, not his usual grounder to 3rd!
I personally found it hilarious as the Pirates got rid of him to open playing time for Castro and Bae, who combined to go 0-for-7 with 5 K’s in that game against a lefty starter, meanwhile traded commodity Newman hits a 2-run bomb off our lefty starter.
When I saw the lineups with Newman at DH I thought this could be good. Then top of the first bouncer up the middle ticks of Baretto’s glove and I thought Newman would’ve had that, this could be really good. Then bottom of the first Newman jacks a two run bomb in his first at bat as a Red and I thought as a Pirates fan this is what I should have been expecting.
I expected it so much I downloaded a betting app to place my first ever bets, and hit on the Newman HR lol
I’ll be happy for every HR Newman hits against every team not named Pirates.
Worried to see VV taking the mound Sunday but so far everything I have that’s happened this loooong season has been opposite of my expectations so Velasquez may throw a shutout win on a a Santana grand slam. Fingers crossed
Shelton gonna Shelton so we know Crowe will be first man out of the bullpen tomorrow. Probably 4th or 5th inning.
Well, being first man up is far better than Crowe in the late innings. Gotta pick your poison!
We’ve been doing that for a long time, lol. And I picked Crowe as my Pirate poison for today and I hope he does well but it’s just that I don’t expect it. I actually forgot about Underdog, lol.
Oh yeah, we’ll see them both, you can bet on it.