While the Pittsburgh Pirates are not expected to be very good this season an 0-2 start is still no fun
Saturday afternoon was a frustrating one for the Pittsburgh Pirates. They had ample opportunities to score runs, which included an opportunity to blow the game wide open in the 1st inning.
Unfortunately, the Pirates were unable to capitalize on these opportunities. Due to this the team fell to the St. Louis Cardinals 6-2 at Busch Stadium, falling to 0-2 on the season. They will now look to avoid losing the series on Sunday.
Wasted 1st inning opportunity
The Pirates made Cardinal starter Miles Mikolas throw 40 pitches in the 1st inning. By the end of the inning they had Mikolas on the ropes with the bullpen getting ready. When Mikolas fired a two-out 3-2 pitch to Cole Tucker with the bases loaded, he may have been down to his final batter. Mikolas got Tucker to fly out to left field, ending the inning and extending his day.
In that 1st inning the Pirates were only able to strike for 1 run off of Mikolas despite loading the bases twice and making him throw 40 pitches. Daniel Vogelbach reached on an infield hit to start the game and continued to weaponize his speed by scoring on a Yoshi Tsutsugo sacrifice fly, the first of a pair of RBI for Tsutsugo, with the bases loaded and no one out. A walk by Ben Gamel reloaded the bases before Tucker flew out.
When the Pirates only mustered 1 run in the 1st inning it felt like a wasted opportunity. This indeed proved to be a wasted opportunity that would come back to burn them as the game went on, it was also the start of struggles with runners on base. Pittsburgh left 11 runners on base and went just 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position, and one of the hits was Hayes’s 1st inning single that just loaded the bases and did not plate a run.
Mitch Keller pitches better than his final line
Mitch Keller started for the Pittsburgh Pirates and his final line was nothing special. In his season debut he allowed 4 runs on 6 hits, 2 walks, a home run, and 4 strikeouts. However, he pitched better than his final line and continued a lot of the good things he showed in spring training.
Keller’s fastball sat in the high-90s and maxed out at 98.9 MPH. He thew 63% of his 70 pitches for strikes, generated 8 whiffs, and his fastball had a ridiculous amount of spine and movement, something that was not always there in the past.
Keller’s stuff looked great and he looked confident on the mound. He overcame things that in the past would have led to Keller coming unraveled. Three of the first four Cardinal batters of the game reached base, tying the game at 1 and giving them runners on second and third. Keller put a foot down and, with some assistance from Ke’Bryan Hayes, got the final two outs of the inning without allowing another run.
The 3rd inning was also a big of a tough luck inning for Keller. Hayes failed to field a 50/50 ball at third base that put Paul Goldschmidtt on to start the inning. By no means was it an easy play, but it’s one Hayes would say he should make. DeJong’s home run then came with two outs and had it been hit more toward center field it would have been a routine fly out to end the inning.
It was also encouraging to see Keller finish the game strong as his final inning was his best. In the 4th inning he retired the Cardinals in order, which included a pair of strikeouts. Keller also limited hard contact throughout the game. Outside of the home run he allowed to Paul DeJong, there was only one other ball put in play off of Keller that was hit over 94.2 MPH.
If the Pittsburgh Pirates continue to get this version of Keller that will bode well for both the team and the pitcher moving forward.
Big day for Ke’Bryan Hayes
Returning to the lineup after exiting Thursday’s season opener with a cramping issue, Ke’Bryan Hayes returned to the lineup and made his presence felt all day long. It started in the 1st inning when Hayes smoked a 110 MPH missile to center field. Then in the bottom half of the inning he made a tremendous play to gun down a runner at the plate.
Hayes also drew a walk, hit a ball 105.0 MPH for his first double of the season, and made some other dazzling defensive plays along the way. It was also encouraging to see Hayes driving the ball up the middle and the other way, when he was at his best in September 2020 that is what drove his success.
Yeah, that $70 million extension is going to be a bargain for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Roansy Contreras makes season debut
Roansy Contreras was recalled prior to Saturday’s first pitch. The organization’s top pitching prospect was in line to start for Triple-A Indianapolis on Saturday, which led to him replacing Keller.
Contreras fought through some shakiness in the 5th inning, which included a walk and a hit batter, to escape by allowing just 1 run. Contreras was then pulled with two outs in the 6th inning and a runner on base after throwing just 44 pitches. This runner came around to score after a bloop to right field bounced out of Tucker’s glove before Heath Hembree got the final out of the inning.
Having Contreras pitch out of the bullpen today was fine. After all, he was in line to start for Indianapolis but was promoted due to Duane Underwood Jr. being placed on the injured list. If Contreras is going to remain with the Pirates moving forward then there is zero reason for him to not be in the starting rotation. It is easy to see why he is so highly thought of as a prospect, his fastball explodes out of his hand and has easy velocity. His curveball, slider, and changeup all looked good as well.
Diego Castillo pinch hit in the 7th inning a drove a T.J. McFarland pitch into the right-center field gap for a double and his first career hit. There is zero reason for Castillo to not be in the starting lineup every day. The Pittsburgh Pirates need to see what young players such as Castillo can do.
Anthony Banda and David Bednar both bad their first appearances of the season out of the Pirate bullpen. Banda retired the Cardinals in order in the 7th inning while striking out a pair, Bednar pitched a scoreless 8th inning that included him starting a 1-6-3 double play. It remains to be seen how many times the Pirate starting rotation can get a lead through the 5th or 6th inning of a game, but with the quartet of Chris Stratton, Hembree, Banda, and Bednar, the bullpen should be successful in closing out most of the leads they are given.
The third game of this four-game wrap around series is scheduled for 2:15 PM ET on Sunday afternoon. Bryse Wilson is scheduled to make his first start of the young season for the Pirates, while the Cardinals plan to send lefty Steven Matz to the mound.