Mitch Keller turned in arguably the best start of his MLB career leading the way in a 2-1 Pittsburgh Pirates victory over the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night
Following a gut wrenching 2-0 loss against the San Diego Padres, the Pittsburgh Pirates entered Tuesday night’s game looking to even their three-game series against the Padres. Led by a tremendous start from Mitch Keller, the Pirates picked up a 2-1 victory over the Padres on Tuesday night.
With the win the Pittsburgh Pirates snapped their 5-game losing streak. The win improved the team’s record on the season to 13-16 and puts them in position to capture a series victory over the Padres on Wednesday night.
Mitch Keller turns in arguably his best MLB start
The trials and tribulations of Mitch Keller have been discussed ad nauseam. A former consensus top-50 prospect in baseball, Keller has struggling mightily during his MLB career. That said, those struggles had come in just 21 MLB starts.
Tuesday night Keller made his 22nd career MLB start, and 6th this season. In this start Keller flashed why he was once viewed as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball and turned in the best start of his still young MLB career.
From the get go on Tuesday night Keller looked confident and in charge. These are two traits he has not displayed enough of in his MLB career. Keller was aggressive with his fastball and was able to command it, putting the ball where he wanted it.
In 5.2 scoreless innings of work Keller allowed just 2 hits, walked a pair and struck out 5. He threw 83 pitches in his 5.2 innings of work and threw 48 of them for strikes. This marked just the fourth time in Keller’s career he pitched more than 5 innings and it was arguably the best start of his MLB career.
Moving forward Keller and the Pittsburgh Pirates will be looking to get this version of Keller consistently. He looked poised, confident and in control on the mound. His fastball command was the best it has been all season and possibly the best it has been in his career. He took control of the inside of the plate which helped him get chases on pitches away.
Bryan Reynolds doubles machine is back
With each passing day the struggles of Bryan Reynolds in 2020 look more and more like a fluke. After hitting for a .314/.377/.503 slash line to go with a 130 wRC+ as a rookie in 2019, Reynolds slumped to a .189/.275/.357 slash line and a 72 wRC+ last season.
Tuesday night Reynolds was 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles. He also drove in the first run of the night for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Following this performance Reynolds is now hitting for a .292/.380/.453 slash line and a 131 wRC+ through his first 121 plate appearances of the season.
After collected a pair of doubles, Reynolds now has 10 on the season. This puts him on a 50 double pace for the season. As a rookie in 2019 Reynolds hit a Pirate rookie record 37 doubles and now it appears the Reynolds double machine is back. No matter how the rest of the 2021 season goes, getting the 2019 Reynolds back is huge for the Pirates as he solidifies himself as a long-term building block.
Erik González aggressiveness pays off
With one-out in the top of the 6th inning Pirate third baseman Erik González singled to center field. Following this base hit González started to get aggressive. This aggressiveness paid off and played a big role in the Pirate victory.
With Jacob Stallings batting González stole second base. Stallings then hit a ground ball to second base. On the play, González, who was on second base, just kept running and rounded third base. This led to San Diego first baseman Eric Hosmer coming off the bag early to attempt to throw González out at home. Not only did Hosmer fail to throw out González, by coming off the bag it also allowed Stallings to reach base. This was arguably the biggest play in the game.
More strong work from the bullpen
Throughout the first month of the season the bullpen has been a strength for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Tuesday night was just the latest in what is quickly becoming a long list of strong bullpen performances.
Sam Howard took over for Keller with runners on the corners and 2 outs in the bottom of the 6th inning. Howard got Hosmer to ground out to end the inning. Left-handed hitters are now just 2-for-19 against Howard this season and he has stranded all 10 runners he has inherited this season.
While David Bednar allowed a run on a pair of hits in the 7th inning he still got one of the biggest outs of the night. With the tying run on base and tow outs in the inning, Bednar got the always dangerous Fernando Tatis Jr. to pop out to end the inning. Then in the 8th inning Kyle Crick posted a zero, keeping his ERA on the season at 0.00.
In the 9th inning it was Richard Rodríguez time. Rodríguez retired the Padres in order to slam the door shut on the 2-1 Pirate victory, earning his 5th save of the season. This was the 23rd consecutive scoreless outing for Rodríguez.
This season Rodríguez has allowed just two baserunners. This gives him a WHIP of 0.16, which is tied for the lowest by any pitcher through their first 12 outings of the season in the history of the modern era of baseball.
Wednesday night’s game looks like it will be a great pitching matchup. JT Brubaker (2.63 ERA, 3.91 FIP) is scheduled to start for the Pirates, while the Padres have veteran You Darvish (2.13 ERA, 3.08 FIP) scheduled to start. First pitch from Petco Park is scheduled for 8:10 PM ET on Wednesday night.