Thursday afternoon the Pittsburgh Pirates kicked off their 2022 season with plenty going wrong in a loss against the St. Louis Cardinals
Thursday started with such optimism for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Prior to the start of their season opener the team agreed to an 8-year, $70 million extension with budding superstar third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes.
Unfortunately, after the Hayes extension was reached the rest of the day went south. The Pittsburgh Pirates suffered a 9-0 loss against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium to kick off their 2022 season.
Things started to go south in a hurry for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They found themselves trailing 1-0 after the 1st inning and things never looked up. There was certainly a major scare along the way as well.
Bad 1st inning sets the tone
In the top half of the 1st inning the Pirates went down in order, including a pair of strikeouts, against Cardinal starter Adam Wainwright. Then in the bottom half of the inning the Pirates faced a major scare.
Hayes left the game after being checked out on the field by Derek Shelton and the team’s training staff. Pirate fans immediately found themselves holding their breath due to the concern about Hayes. Luckily, it appears it will just be a minor issue for Hayes with reports indicating it was just a minor cramping issue.
In addition to Hayes exiting the game, the bottom half of the 1st inning also saw the Red Birds strike first. Dylan Carlson reached on a bloop double to shallow left field on a weakly hit pop up that saw Hayes nearly make an incredible play to start the game. Second baseman Hoy Park then botched a ground ball that easily could have been a double play ball, but should have at least gotten one out. While starting pitcher JT Brubaker found himself trailing 1-0 after the 1st inning it was not completely his fault.
Tyler O’Neill home run prove to be game’s biggest hit
Making his first Opening Day start, Brubaker allowed 4 runs on 4 hits, 3 walks, and 2 strikeouts in 3 innings pitched. While this was not the start Brubaker was looking for he nearly wiggled off the hook.
We already covered how the run he allowed in the 1st inning was not completely his doing. In the bottom of the 2nd inning he nearly wiggled off the hook as well. With two out and two runners on base Brubaker was on the brink of escaping the jam, but Cardinal outfielder Tyler O’Neill sent an 0-1 pitch from Brubaker into the stands for a 3-run home run. This made the score 4-0 Cardinals and proved to be the biggest moment of the game.
While things came unglued for the Pirates in the bottom of the 8th inning, if not for O’Neill’s blast it may have been a 1-0 or 2-0 game entering that 8th inning. That could have led to the inning being managed completely differently and the Pirates hanging around until the end of the game.
Recapping the bullpen
Wil Crowe was the first reliever to enter the game after Brubaker. Crowe, who has always projected better as a reliever than a starting pitcher, had a strong outing, striking out 3 Cardinal batters while walking a pair and not allowing a hit in 2 scoreless innings of work.
Next up was Duane Underwood Jr. After allowing a double to start the 6th inning, Underwood Jr. exited the game due to injury. Heath Hembree then got out of the 6th inning but not before allowing the inherited runner to score.
It remains to be seen what Underwood Jr.’s injury issue will be but it did not look promising. It would not be a surprise to see the righty land on the injured list, forcing the Pirates to make a roster move.
After Chris Stratton pitched a 1-2-3 7th inning, lefty Aaron Fletcher was summoned in the 8th inning. After retiring the first batter of the inning, Fletcher allowed a solo home run to Tommy Edman, hit Carlson in the foot, allowed a single to Paul Goldschmidtt, and allowed a sacrifice fly to O’Neill. After O’Neill picked up his 5th RBI of the game, Nolan Arenado’s launched a 2-run home run off of Fletcher to make the score 9-0.
Other than Fletcher, it was an overall strong game for the bullpen. Fletcher aside, Pirate relievers allowed a run on a hit and 3 strikeouts in 4 innings pitched. But for Fletcher, it was an Opening Day worth forgetting.
Rough day for Kevin Newman
In a lot of ways Kevin Newman has been set up to fail. No Pirate fan wants to see Newman at shortstop over Oneil Cruz. Cruz is one of the top prospects in all of baseball while Newman has been one of the worst hitters in baseball the past two seasons.
While Newman did pick up a base hit on Thursday afternoon, by the end of the game Pirate fans had anger building toward Newman. Newman was thrown out trying to steal second base in the 2nd inning, committed an error on a routine ground ball in the 3rd inning, and hit into an inning ending double play with runners on the corners in the 4th inning.
If Newman’s struggles continue the anger from Pirate fans will continue. It will also only cause the call for Cruz to be promoted to the majors to replace Newman to grow louder.
Following an off day on Friday the second game of the four-game wrap around series is scheduled for 2:15 PM ET on Saturday afternoon. Mitch Keller will make his first start of the season for the Pirates, while the Cardinals will send Dakota Hudson to the mound.