Pittsburgh Pirates: Pitching Leads the Way to Series Victory

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 22: Mitch Keller #23 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning at Comerica Park on April 22, 2021, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - APRIL 22: Mitch Keller #23 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning at Comerica Park on April 22, 2021, in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images) /
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63. Final. 4. 4. 2

The Pittsburgh Pirates took on the Detroit Tigers in the final game of the three-game series Thursday afternoon and picked up a win to pull the team within one game of .500  

Pre-Game

The Pittsburgh Pirates made a flurry of roster moves prior to Thursday afternoon’s game. Right-handed reliever Geoff Hartlieb was recalled to the active roster as Opening Day starter Chad Kuhl was placed on the 10-day IL with right shoulder discomfort.

Todd Frazier also made his debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates after beginning the season at the teams’ alternate site. Frazier’s contract was selected Thursday morning, most likely as a result of Ke’Bryan Hayes recently re-aggravating his wrist. The Pirates were hopeful that Hayes was nearing his return to game action in Pittsburgh but it appears that will not be the case as Hayes suffered a setback hitting off of a live pitching machine.

Frazier was the team’s designated hitter Thursday afternoon inn Detroit and was 0-4 in his debut, though he was robbed of extra-bases by JaCoby Jones following a terrific catch at the warning track in center field. Manager Derek Shelton will have the ability to keep Frazier in that designated hitter’s slot if he so chooses as the Pittsburgh Pirates will continue their American League road trip in Minnesota tomorrow night.

Center fielder Dustin Fowler was designated for assignment in a corresponding move after hitting just .171/.239/195 with the club to go along with 20 strikeouts. Anthony Alford was recently DFA’d as well and it appears newly acquired OF Ka’ai Tom will have an opportunity waiting for him in Pittsburgh.

Thursday’s Action

The Pirates got things going right from the start as Adam Frazier lined the first pitch he saw from Tigers starter José Ureña into right-center for a leadoff double. Bryan Reynolds then stepped to the plate and singled to center scoring Frazier to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead.

Following a Colin Moran groundout to second, Erik González singled to center to bring home Reynolds and the Pirates took a 2-0 lead into the second inning.

Pirate starter Mitch Keller struggled in his last outing against the Padres, surrendering 7 earned runs through 3.1 innings and entered today’s game with an 8.74 ERA and an 8:12 BB:K ratio. Keller got off to a solid start in today’s game with a 1-2-3 1st inning but with two outs in the second Niko Goodrum doubled to deep right-center and Akil Baddoo followed with an RBI triple to cut the Pirate lead to 1.

Following the shaky 2nd inning, however, Keller looked very solid the rest of the way. His only blemish occurred in the bottom half of the 5th inning as he surrendered a solo shot to JaCoby Jones to tie the game at 2. Overall Keller’s outing was certainly a step in the right direction and he finished the day at the 80 pitch mark.

Keller may have had more left in the tank but it was manager Derek Shelton’s decision to pull the 25-year-old after five solid innings, perhaps as a way to begin to build some confidence in his young starter after he did not walk a batter in Thursday’s contest. Keller gave up five hits and the two earned runs to go along with five strikeouts.

Following Keller’s departure, Righty Duane Underwood Jr. was called upon out of the pen in the sixth inning. Underwood Jr. struck out three in the sixth but then ran into some trouble in the bottom half of the seventh as Akil Baddoo continued his strong day with a double to lead off the inning. The ball actually could have made its way over the wall in left but Phillip Evans was able to get his glove on it and kept it in play, holding Baddoo to a double. Underwood Jr. induced a line out to follow however Jones singled and lefty Howard was called upon to try to record the final out and keep the game tied at two. With runners at first and third, Howard got Willi Castro to fly out to Evans in left to end the inning and the game remained tied at two heading into the eighth inning.

Adam Frazier picked up his third hit of the day with a 1-out single to right in the top of the eighth and he came around to score following a Reynolds walk and a Colin Moran RBI single to left. With Reynolds at third and Moran at first, Erik González stepped to the plate and made it 4-2 Bucs with a seeing-eye single through the right side. After his 2-4 performance this afternoon, González is batting .291 with 12 RBI and he is certainly making his case to be an everyday starter on the left side of the infield.

Bullpen Returns to Form

Underwood Jr. ran into a bit of trouble in the bottom half of that 7th inning but overall both he and Howard were very effective in Thursday’s game. Following Wednesday’s rocky bullpen performance, it was good to see the bullpen bounce back.

With a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the 8th inning struggling righty Chris Stratton was called upon to keep the lead at two for closer Richard Rodríguez and he did so successfully.

Rodríguez came into today’s contest with the longest active scoreless appearance streak in baseball with 19 in a row dating back to last season and pitched a perfect ninth inning this afternoon to secure the save as well as the Pirates’ ninth win of the season. Rodríguez is now 3/3 in save opportunities to go along with a stellar 1:8 BB:K ratio through his first 8.1 innings of the 2021 season.

2021 Prospect Preview: Hudson Head. dark. Next

What’s Next?

The Pittsburgh Pirates (9-10) have now won back-to-back series on the road and will travel to Minnesota to take on the slow starting Twins (6-11) in a three-game series beginning Friday night. JT Brubaker (2-0 1.76 ERA) will look to stay hot as he’ll start tomorrow night against the veteran, and former Pirate, J.A. Happ (0-0 3.12 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 8:10 PM ET.

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