Pittsburgh Pirates Lose On Opening Day In Cincinnati
By Marty Leap
The Pittsburgh Pirates were defeated by the Cincinnati Reds in their 2019 season opener on Thursday afternoon
Thursday’s Opening Day got off to an auspicious start for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Before the game, Lonnie Chisenhall, who was signed to man right field until Gregory Polanco returns, and projected fifth starter Jordan Lyles were placed on the 15-day injured list. You can read about all of that here. Additionally, Starling Marte was a late scratch due to a migraine.
These moves led to Melky Cabrera starting in right field and batting second for the Pirates, while veteran JB Shuck was in center batting seventh. Shuck only made the team due to Chisenhall breaking his hand in an exhibition game in Houston on Monday night.
In case you forgot, Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati is a minor league quality stadium. Pirate fans got a reminder of this in the bottom of the 2nd inning when Jose Iglesias hit a two-out double off the left field wall that gave the Reds an early 1-0 lead. At any other ballpark the ball Iglesias hit would have been a routine fly out to left field.
New shortstop Erik Gonzalez led off the top of the 3rd inning with the team’s first hit of the season. Following a one-out walk by Adam Frazier, the Pirates appeared to be setting up shop. However, Cincinnati started Luis Castillo got cavers and Corey Dickerson to pop out to end the inning.
Pirate fans then got a reminder in the top of the 4th inning that Joe West is a grumpy old man who should no longer be umpiring MLB games. A 3-1 pitch to Josh Bell was well off the plate and should’ve been ball four to give Bell a lead off walk. West, however, called it a strike. He also called a similar pitch to Francisco Cervelli a strike instead of a ball. This led to Bell and Cervelli being forced to chase pitches, resulting in strike outs.
After Jung Ho Kang worked a two-walk, West struck again. A 2-2 pitch to Shuck that was a good 3-4 inches off the plate was called strike three. With that, the inning was over.
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While West’s strike zone was bad, Castillo’s change up was filthy on Thursday. In 5 2/3 innings pitched he allowed just one run, on two hits, three walks, and he struck out eight Pirate batters.
Castillo’s day ended when Bell singled with two outs in the top of the 6th inning. The Reds then called on ex-Pirate sinker baller Jared Hughes to face Cervelli.
Cervelli singles off Hughes and then Kang put one into the left-center gap. Reds left field Jesse Winker got lazy on the play, and Joey Cora got aggressive at third base. After Bell scored easily, Cora waived Cervelli home who scored all the way from first.
With the Pirates now ahead 2-1, Hughes would issue a walk to Shuck. Gonzalez then grounded out to end the inning.
In the bottom of the 7th inning Great American Smallpark struck again. Jose Peraza hit Taillon’s first pitch of the inning for a home run that barely cleared the short porch in left field to tie the game at 2.
Following the Peraza home run, Taillon walked Tucker Barnhart and Iglesias snuck a double just fair inside the left field line. This put runners on second and third with no one out and ended Taillon’s day.
Richard Rodriguez replaced Taillon as Derek Dietrich pinch hit for the Reds. Dietrich would hit a three-run home run that just scraped over the right field wall, giving the Reds a 5-2 lead.
On a day where he pitched much better than his final line, Taillon allowed four earned runs in 6+ innings pitched. He allowed six hits, walked two, and struck out four.
Against new Cincinnati pitcher Raisel Iglesias, Dickerson got in on the smallpark fun. Leading off the top of the 8th inning the Pirate left field hit a home run to right field. This cut the Reds lead to 5-3.
Following a 1-2-3 bottom of the 8th inning from Nick Burdi, the Pirates took their final cuts against Iglesias in the top of the 9th inning. Leading off the inning Shuck drew his second walk of the game to bring the tying run to the plate.
Last season, Colin Moran was one of the best pinch hitters in all of baseball. His pinch hitting prowess continued on Thursday as he drew a pinch hit walk off Iglesias, chasing him from the game with two on and just one out.
Cincy manager David Bell then summoned lefty Amir Garrett from the bullpen to face the left-handed hitting Adam Frazier. After Garrett stuck out Frazier in looking in what was a miserable AB from the Pirate lead off man, Bell went to his bullpen again. Bell called upon David Hernandez to face Pablo Reyes in search of the game’s final out.
Hernandez started his outing by walking Reyes to load the bases. After Dickerson battled to the tune of an 11-pitch at bat, Hernandez got him to ground out to end the game as the Pirate comeback bid fell just short.
Game two of the series is scheduled for 2:10 on Saturday afternoon. Sonny Gray will make his Reds debut, while Trevor Williams take the ball for the Pirates in his 2019 debut.