Vince Velasquez just had one of his best starts in five years.
The Pirates’ free agent starter pitched seven shutout innings, allowing two walks and two hits, while striking out ten. That led the way to the Pirates beating the Reds 2-0, completing a four game sweep, and extending their winning streak to seven games.
Velasquez hasn’t recorded double-digit strikeouts since a start on May 10th, 2018, when he struck out 12 in six innings against the Giants. The right-hander has only pitched seven innings in three other starts since 2018, with the last being on June 29, 2021.
What was impressive about today is that his strikeout stuff was just as “wicked” in the seventh inning, as Pitching Ninja Rob Friedman highlights.
Vince Velasquez, Wicked Sliders. 🤢
9th and 10th Ks pic.twitter.com/P0SJp19jBW
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 23, 2023
The Pirates offense faced a tough assignment today, going up against Reds lefty Hunter Greene. They managed to eek out a run in the first inning, with Ke’Bryan Hayes scoring on a double-play by Andrew McCutchen. That lone run would be all that Velasquez would get, and it was all that he needed through seven.
After a scoreless eighth inning from Colin Holderman — who picked up his eighth hold as David Bednar’s set-up man — the Pirates got a spark from another veteran free agent addition.
Carlos Santana hit a well-placed check-swing grounder down the first base line in the bottom of the eighth, in what would have been the final out had it been a bit to the right. Santana wasn’t done there. The 37-year-old first baseman stole his first base since the 2021 season, catching Reds’ right-hander Fernando Cruz and first baseman Wil Myers sleeping with an early jump, before taking off on the windup.
That was followed by a double from Jack Suwinski on a line drive to right field, scoring Santana, and giving the Pirates some insurance.
Not that David Bednar needed it. The closer gave up a two-out single to right field, but closed out the game with two strikeouts and a pop-out in an easy outing.
The Pirates will get a well-deserved day off tomorrow. On Tuesday, they welcome the Los Angeles Dodgers to town for a three game series in what will be their biggest challenge of the year.
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.
My whiskey drinking seems to coincide with bucco wins, coincidence? I wont take the chance so going to need a finger or two most nights through the summer…
cultivating some light alcoholism, to support the team. I see no other way, kudos. 😉
A sacrifice I am willing to make, gotta do my part!
Welp, the mad dog talked about them alittle bit today, doesn’t know their record, said they are 14-7 haha but said they could be a on the verge and they are doing this with a big injury.
Who gives 2 sh*ts that nobody is talking about them. They haven’t earned a GD thing. You think a nice little start to the season means anything after the stunt they pulled the last 3 years?!?!?
If they’re still playing this well after Memorial Day, they’ll get some national recognition. Respect is earned and they were the joke of the sport with all the shenanigans…effing cell phones, sunflower seeds, chasing a running down to Homeplate, back-to-back 100 loss seasons. You guys think 23 games will change this.
Agreed, remember the 2021 atrocity was 13-12 at this point in the season.
Haha, I hit I nerve, believe me I agree with every word you just said, it’s just mad dog is a lunatic and would lovr for him to eat crow, he says the same thing about the rays gives them no respect and they’ve earned respect. I’m not in anyway portraying the bucs as a martyr and yes they have been horrible and am I in anyway convince they will even get to 80 winds but this is a nice start, best start since 92. Jesus Christ!! Lighten up alittle!!!!
I know, I know.
I get triggered when I see people portraying the Pirates as a martyr.
You and me both brother!
Division looks interesting to me. Cubs rotation and lineup looks a lot better than I expected. Cards lineup scares the hell out of me but hopefully their rotation continues to struggle.
Really sucks that JT is out, as I don’t think Hill is going to hold up. That said, I love the makings of this rotation.
There’s something off with the Cards this year. Like you said, the lineup is solid. But, I don’t like their rotation or defense.
Also, it appears these guys are hitting their upside. Keller, Ovi, Contreras, Reynolds, Suwinski, Joe, Bednar, Holderman, Velasquez and even Santana has upside. After years of not being able to finish that last stage of dev., it appears they’ve finally figured it out.
They shoved a 20 yo onto their opening day roster, out of position, and he’s predictably been their least valuable player over the first month of the season.
Who could’ve guessed.
Eh, Fangraphs has an article up about the Cards struggles.
I have a hard time buying that when the biggest dev upside failure is still sitting there on 3B and Contreras has backslid considerably from his prospect peak.
The last dev group had no less success IMO.
This is the optimist in me…
It appears Hayes has slowly been hitting the ball better and I think Contreras has pitched like a 50 FV. Obviously, we’re going to need to see where these guys are after 162.
The nonstatistical eye test tells me hayes seems somewhat more comfortable hitting 1 than lower. Not that he has earned that yet once cruz is back
Hill might be the only starter who might not consistently give the team 6 innings plus a start…
Definitely not sold on VV there
Using this start to confirm my priors that #actually vets are the new market inefficiency.
When clubs are locking up most of their rosters long term, there’s gonna leave even less competition for some really, really strong veteran ballplayers on short, cheap deals.
This is the Way.
You called it!
This is the way. Not to get way into the future, but I am somewhat concerned for next year where the majority of our offensive production will be FA (joe, santana, cutch). I am hopeful guys like castro, hayes, and suwinski will continue to grow and bringing up endy will lighten the load. Am a bit concerned though
They control Joe through 2027
Didnt realize this, good to know!
Absolutely with you there…but I remind myself that even if we had them on multiyear deals we still could not expect the same contributions.
In this way, we at least have the flexibility to roll the dice with a new set.
…at least that’s what I tell myself!
So, it’s not play the kids?
You do both…
So, it’s not play the kids.
Ok Tim, admit how your 3 favorite teams – Rays, Bucs, O’s, have some of the best records in the MLB. Did you sacrifice a live chicken in their clubhouses before the season?
never noticed he has a clemente card and a hank aaron rookie card there
Vince Velasquez going all Edinson Volquez.
Seriously, I know Marin deserves a lot of the credit, but Hedges and Hill are also big factors here. Day 1 of Spring Training, Hill went to each of the starters and wanted to see their slider grip. Hedges is Russ Martin with no offense.
Random, unrelated thought…. I wonder if there are a certain cohort of the overall pitcher group league wide that is actually helped by this year’s pace rules?
The pitch clock, I know some guys were really unhappy about that. But I wonder if for a lot of others it maybe helps them — they don’t have time to second or third-guess things or otherwise get in their own heads, they just get a sign from their catcher and deal it. Especially with a good pitcher’s catcher, maybe this is a net benefit? Also, not having to play endless games with the base runner is likely helpful to concentrating on the actual pitching, as well.
Am I reading pitch type correctly? It looks to me like Vince has almost doubled his slider percentage to 40% this year and completely junked his curveball?
I personally hate it, but I’m pretty sure the modern slider is the best pitch in the history of the game and there’s really no downside to just throwing a shit-ton of them.
Like, that’s it. That’s the one weird trick.
Was listening to a podcast and Eno sarris had an interesting point: he finds anyone that has a slider more interesting than those that dont, basically saying every pitcher should have a pitching lab slider and throw it regularly
The last few years have blown my mind on what’s possible.
Hypothetical gun to your head…Pirates need one win, who’s on the mound?
Oviedo is throwing the best but I still believe Keller is the best pitcher.
Gotta trust your horse.
A la Brad Hand
At the end of the year, all we see is the win-loss record. However, I think these early wins are too often overlooked and can ultimately change the entire course of a team’s season.
I know it’s still April, but it makes me wonder what the playoff probabilities are of the first eight or so teams to hit the win total thresholds of 30, 40, 50 wins… and so on.
VV was awesome, tip of the cap to him and the buccos for doing enough to win, great start from everyone involved in 2023 (pitching, offense, coaching, manager)👏👏👏👏
A J and a few drinks in and I just had an epiphany/conspiracy theory thought on Maggi. The Pirates are going to want to play up the feel good story and let him stick around for a week or so when BRey comes back. CSN gets the walking papers back to Indy to relearn how to hit. Maggi gets a few PH/D replacement games vs the Dodgers and a full game at some point. SwaggyT comes off the IL, gets a few games in Indy to get back into playing shape and joins the big league squad, ending up with a Maggi option/DFA.
(This must be how bmc feels all the time)
The Pirates are going to want to win games.
I’ll bet you one of those drinks that Maggi is down when BRey comes back.
Maggi is a cool little story, but dude is hitting below the Mendoza line in AA.
my jack and honey and lime and ice was last night
im for calling up Andujar in favor of Canaan
thought Maggi should have been one and done after today
some say we´re trying to win and pinching for him in the 8th with only a one run lead is not a time for charity… but somehow giving him a roster spot for the week against the perenial dodgers is more competitive???
should have just let Bednar close with a one run lead and been done with this story
This is going to be the summer of Moscow Mules for me.
these dudes in charge dont believe in joeboo
if they send him done without giving him an at bat, then dont be surprised when jose lind botches another ball in the 9th game 7
somebody needs to hang bats from the dugout ceiling for Cruz while he can´t get on his tippy toes
put fort on robbie´s shoulders to get it done
better than that stupid jacket that travis williams hung there today
The Dodgers aren’t quite themselves right now, with all the injuries. Maybe we can take a couple games.
We should start to see some love from the national broadcast outlets for some of the upcoming games I would think. The Bucs should become regulars on ESPN if this keeps up, eh?
MLB.com moved us up as team to watch in power rankings and also has us vs the dodgers as a series to watch this weak
The Bucs should become regulars on ESPN if this keeps up, eh?
Yeah, once the win streak reaches, maybe, 60.
The operative word was “should” not “would”. Sadly you are spot on.
But you are right. Unfortunately, ESPN blows.
They actually did have a brief segment on the Pirates after the Sunday night game. Turns out they’re winning because Hayes is batting leadoff.
Ok, I don’t know how long this lasts, but the Pittsburgh Pirates are in FIRST FUCKING PLACE with the BEST FUCKING RECORD IN THE NATIONAL LEAGUE! Tim, if you have to delete this, I understand, but here’s the thing: the Pittsburgh Pirates are in FIRST FUCKING PLACE with the BEST FUCKING RECORD IN THE NATIONAL LEAGUE! Holy shit! and WTF? GO BUCS!!!
you’re my spirit animal this morning, weenie.
Tim, you might be onto something here… if you’re scoring a run in the 1st as the result of a double play that essentially kills an early rally, that well could be “eek” out a run, whereas simply playing small ball to get that same single score would have been the more common “eke” out a run.
I was still in the mode of writing my horror novel. This was easier to disguise when the team was bad. 🤣
of topic, Tim . . . but Hunter Greene is NOT a lefty (see line one above)
ahem . . . off topic, I meant
Pirates are now 1st in the NL Central, best record in the NL and 2nd in all of baseball!!!
Pitching and Defense wins – it usually only gets big attention during the Playoffs at the end of the year. HR’s/Offense occupies the big story lines during the first 75% of the season.
Having Keller, Oviedo, Contreras, and VV all pitching lights out, Quality Starts all at the same time is like winning the Lotto type of stupid for this franchise!
Time to bring up Selby and send Crowe down to get back his confidence in pitching.
Any update on Burrows injury?
The end of the world must be near!
Question about MLB service time and the DL: Even though he won’t play for almost two years, does JT Brubaker still add MLB service time? I can see why there are protections, otherwise teams would be using the rules to cheat guys our of service time, “Oh oops you just go hurt just short of a deadline” On the other side it seems bad for the Pirates to have to pay the guy when he won’t be on the field for this long. Anyone? How does this work?
Yes, Brubaker gets service time. He was on the roster when he got hurt. No one asks to get injured. That is just part of the game.
As far as I can remember, all of the time of Taillon’s rehab counted as MLB Service.
Is Velasquez for real? Still little hesitant because he’s not been consistently good for years but would love to believe it’s Marin magic.
Marin can be “suggesting” different approaches if a guy is struggling, but it still comes down to throwing strike one, getting ahead, and letting the hitter do the guessing.
There’s also a presence behind the plate. Hedges has been a magic-man for years, and Jason Delay caught a lot of top pitchers at Vanderbilt, so he also knows how to handle pitchers. Both are Pitcher’s Catchers and that pays dividends that are not often recognized.
Added together, these guys are throwing with confidence – a viewing of Bull Durham is in order.
Interesting tidbit on Delay 🤔
Are the Dodgers a bigger challenge than the defending WS Champion Astros? Astros just swept the Braves in Atlanta. I very much doubt this years Dodgers team is good enough to do that.
Dodgers will be facing Pirates 3 young gun SP’s. Definitely a good series to see if these guys have what it takes against a lineup filled with professional hitters. Something they didn’t see vs Colorado and Cincinnati.
Yeah if those games are as tight as these against the Reds have been, Shelton is going to have to earn his extension because a two man bullpen is not sustainable for a season. I’m not sure he still understands that when a rp isn’t throwing well you can take him out after facing three batters and try the next guy.
Give it up, My God!
Look up open forum Dude!
He’s definitely going to have to manage the bullpen differently if team is a legitimate contender. Plus BC will have to manage 40-man differently, too. Probably a month or so away from this being reality though.
I’m not really worried about the bullpen if this team is a contender. You have some AAA depth right not that can translate into innings/depth (Bolton/Selby/Mlodzinski) and Priester as a possible long man/spot starter if necessary (I can’t see Ortiz not being in the rotation at some point). It is also usually not too difficult to land a decent bullpen arm near the deadline from a non-contender for a mid-tier prospect. The trick is not to give up a 6’7″ shortstop in the process.
need to pull a lefty out of our hat from somewhere
Thank you LAD
I think he was talking about Rivas as the 6’7” SS.
That plays too…