After a rough first two games of 2020, the Pirates put up an extremely good display of baseball on Sunday.
The Pittsburgh Pirates were coming off two rough losses. After losing on Friday, coming up just short in a 9th inning rally, and then in a 9-1 blowout on Saturday, the Pirates salvaged a game in the series, and put up some really impressive baseball.
However, before we get into the recap, there were a few notable things to bring up. In the second inning, Derek Holland was ejected for arguing balls and strikes. According to the research of AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh, this made Holland the first player in MLB history to get ejected from a game before ever appearing in a game for that team. This was the first masked-up argument between manager Derek Shelton and home plate umpire Jordan Baker. Today was a day of firsts for Shelton as it was also his first managerial win.
Mitch Keller got off to a great start to the game. He got the first three Cardinals batters, Pittsburgh Pirates killer Kolten Wong, Tommy Edman, and, another Pirate killer, Paul Goldschmidt out on seven pitches. However, the 2nd inning would prove to be a bit more of a challenge.
Keller started off the second with two lead off walks to Paul DeJong and the always patient Matt Carpenter. However, with two on and no outs, Keller got the Cardinal all-time great Yadier Molina to hit a ground ball double play to Erik Gonzalez. After Molina, Keller got outfielder Dexter Fowler to fly out to right field.
Keller also had to dance through the raindrops in the 3rd inning. Keller started the inning by getting Tyler O’Neill to fly out to the right field, but then walked Lane Thomas. The Pirates caught a break when Thomas took off for second on a pitch in the dirt but slid just a bit too far. Gonzalez kept the tag on Lane, recording the second out.
Wong arrived at the plate again, and stung the Pittsburgh Pirates with a two out single. After a wild pitch and Wong at second, Edman hit a slow chopper to first baseman Colin Moran. Moran, instead of covering the bag, tried to get the ball to Keller who was unable to get to the bag quick enough. Smart base running from Wong scored the Cardinals first run.
But after the third, Keller sat down didn’t allow any more base runners. Keller’s final line was 5 innings, two hits, three walks, two strikeouts, and 1 earned run. Keller did not have his best stuff on Sunday afternoon, but he still battled. The young right retired the Cardinals in order in 3 of the 5 innings he pitched, and retired the final seven batters he faced.
It took a few innings before the Pirate bats woke up, but when they did, they did in a big way. Moran got the Pittsburgh Pirates on the board with a long ball to right field, tying the game with the first home run of the year for the team. After Moran, third baseman Phillip Evans singled on a hard hit ball that Cardinals’ shortstop DeJong fielded, but was unable to get a good throw off. Evans likely would have been safe with a good throw or not.
Nonetheless, the Pirates next batter was Jose Osuna who slammed a 2-run home run to center field, giving the Pirates a 3-1 lead, and the first lead of the year for the team. The Pittsburgh Pirates added a pair of insurance runs throughout the rest of the game.
The next run came in the following inning. Jacob Stallings started the 5th with a lead off double to the right-center gap. After Dakota Hudson walked Adam Frazier and Bryan Reynolds, the Pirates had the bases loaded with one out. Josh Bell hit a sacrifice fly to score Stallings, making the game 4-1.
The next run came in the 8th inning. Bell drew a one out walk, which set up Evans. Evans, the underdog on the Pirates’ roster, drove him in with a double off the left field wall that O’Neill bobbled.
The Pirate bullpen was absolutely lights out dominant today.
JT Brubaker made his MLB debut, and to say he was impressive might be an understatement. In the 2 innings JT pitched, he struck out four batters. Those four were Wong, Edman, Matt Carpenter, and Fowler. He also got some help from his defense. Goldschmidt got a hit to left field off of Brubaker. After a completely, 100%, for sure intentional bobble from Reynolds, Goldy took off for second but a strong throw from Reynolds to Frazier got Goldschmidt. Brubaker struck out four through his 2 innings of work, and showed off some really impressive pitches.
After Brubaker, Michael Feliz came out of the pen, and got the Cardinals 1-2-3 in the 8th. He recorded one strikeout, that being another Kolten Wong strike out. Those always make fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates smile.
To close out the game, the long awaited Nick Burdi put on an absolute clinic. Burdi, on 11 pitches, got Goldschmidt, DeJong, and Carpenter down on strikes. He didn’t throw a single ball to either Carp or Goldy, getting them on three pitches each.
The win is Derek Shelton’s first MLB win as a manager. Hopefully, this is the first of many, many more with Shelton at the wheel!
The Pirates will head back to Pittsburgh to face the Milwaukee Brewers at PNC. This will be the first regular season game at PNC since the last game of the 2019 season. Steven Brault will piggyback with Chad Kuhl to face off against the Brew Crew’s Adrian Houser at 7:05 PM Eastern.