Pittsburgh Pirates: Cody Ponce Leads Team to Double Header Sweep

Pittsburgh Pirates
St. Louis Cardinals

For the first time since the 1970s, the Pittsburgh Pirates have swept a double header in St. Louis

On Thursday, the Pittsburgh Pirates played a double header against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. This double header was done to help make up for the series between the two teams that was canceled earlier this month due to the Cardinals experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak.

After defeating the Cardinals 4-3 in an 8 inning extra-inning affair in game one, the Pittsburgh Pirates were looking for a sweep in the night cap. In the night cap, the Pirates got that sweep in the form of a 2-0 victory. With the win, the Pirates are now 9-19 on the season. Also, with the win, the Pirates are now 8-8 against their NL Central divisional foes this season, but just 1-11 against the AL Central.

Cody Ponce Conquers The Cardinals

Making his first MLB start, and third appearance, Cody Ponce was excellent on Thursday night. In all honesty, Ponce probably pitched better than the Pittsburgh Pirates ever could have dreamed of.

In 5.2 shut out innings of work, Ponce allowed five hits, he walked a pair and he struck out a pair. Ponce kept the Cardinals off balance throughout his start. Only three balls that were put in play against Ponce were considered to be hard hit, and he induced a pair of big early double play balls.

To be honest, Ponce probably earned the right to try and get the final out of the 6th inning after allowing a two-out triple. However, it is easy to understand why Derek Shelton wanted to get him out of there.

Ponce now owns a 2.00 ERA in 9 innings pitched with the Pirates this season. He certainly made a strong argument on Thursday night as to why he should get an extended look, rather it be as a starter or out of the bullpen, the rest of the season.

Just Enough Offense

The Pittsburgh Pirates did not do much on offense in game two. However, they did do just enough to earn the victory.

Pirate batters recorded just six hits and walked just twice in the game. This included no extra base hits. That said, in the 3rd inning they were able to string a few hits together to scratch out 2 runs, and 2 runs would prove to be enough.

JT Riddle walked with one out in the inning and John Ryan Murphy singled. After a wild pitch, Erik Gonzalez singled home Riddle. Adam Frazier then singled home Murphy, providing the insurance run for the Bucs.

Young Bullpen Arms Shine Again

While the Pirate bullpen has been a bit of a roller coaster ride this season, some young arms have started to emerge as promising long term options. Two of these pitchers are Geoff Hartlieb and Nik Turley, both of whom played a role in the victory.

Hartlieb took over for Ponce with a runner on third and two outs in the 6th inning. The young righty proceeded to get a pop out to first base to end the inning. Hartlieb still has not allowed an inherited runner to score this season as he has started to evolve into a reliable fireman out of the bullpen.

With the Pirates leading 2-0 in the 7th inning, Nik Turley took the mound looking for his first career save. The lefty would get just that by firing a 1-2-3 inning that included a strikeout. Both Hartlieb and Turley, along with Chris Stratton, appear to be solidifying their futures in the Pirate bullpen this season.

What’s Next

Friday night the Pittsburgh Pirates will kick off a four-game weekend wrap around series at Miller Park against the Milwaukee Brewers. Derek Holland (6.17 ERA, 6.50 FIP) will make what could possibly be his final Pirate start with the trade deadline looming on Monday. First pitch from Miller Park is scheduled for 6:10 PM.