Pittsburgh Pirates: Oneil Cruz & Bligh Madris Shine in 2022 Debuts

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 20: Oneil Cruz #15 of the Pittsburgh Pirates looks on against the Chicago Cubs during the game at PNC Park on June 20, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 20: Oneil Cruz #15 of the Pittsburgh Pirates looks on against the Chicago Cubs during the game at PNC Park on June 20, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

12. 4. 1. 9. Final

JT Brubaker pitched 6 scoreless inning, while Oneil Cruz and Bligh Madris stole the show in their 2022 debut helping the Pittsburgh Pirates defeat the Chicago Cubs 12-1.

Even during a bad baseball season there will be fun, memorable games. For the Pittsburgh Pirates, Monday night was one of those games. While they are stuck in the midst of a poor season Monday’s game gave a glimpse into the future for the Pirates and gave fans plenty to cheer about.

Top prospect Oneil Cruz was promoted to the major leagues by the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday. Hot hitting outfield prospect Bligh Madris joined Cruz. Both of them played a major role in 12-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs that improved the Pirates to 27-39 on the season, and increased their cushion on the Cubs in their battle for third place in the National League Central.

Young Bucs continue to make an impact

In his first at-bat of the night Cruz hit a ground ball to second base. With two runners on base and no one out, Jonathan Villar tried to rush the play knowing he had to deal with Cruz’s speed. This led to Villar butchering the play and committing an error that loaded the bases with no one out.

Madris followed this error with a 109.1 MPH missile into center field. This hit plated a pair, and gave the Pittsburgh Pirates a 2-0 lead. It was one hell of a first MLB at-bat for the left-handed hitting Madris.

Before getting into all of Cruz’s escapades, let’s take a second to take about Madris. In his third at-bat he doubled down the left filed lien for his first career extra base hit, this came after he recorded his first career stolen base following his 2-run single, he then picked up his third hit of the night in his fourth trip to the plate in the 7th inning. Madris also made an excellent sliding grab in right field to rob Nico Hoerner of at least a single, if not extra bases.

As for Cruz, well, he flashed his elite potential more than once. After reaching on the error he went first to third with a sprint speed of 29.9 feet per second, an elite spring speed is considered to be 30.0 ft/second. With the use of a sprint speed of 31.5 ft/second he would scored on a shallow hit sacrifice fly by Hoy Park.

Cruz’s second at-bat saw him smoke a 112.9 MPH double into the left-center field gap. This double came with the bases loaded and emptied the bases. He also made a tremendous back handed stop on a ball that he then threw to first base at 96.7 MPH. This was thrown harder than any pitch in the game up to that point and was the hardest thrown ball by a MLB infielder in a game this season. Cruz then drove in a run with a base hit in the 7th inning, making him 2-for-4 and making the score 10-1 Pirates.

With this performance Cruz now owns a the hardest hit ball and fasted sprint speed by a Pirate player this season. Plus, as we mentioned, the hardest thrown ball by a MLB infielder this season. He also now has 8 RBI through his first three MLB games, which ties him with Trevor Story and Paul Molitor for the most RBI by a shortstop in their first three MLB games. Cruz impacted the game in multiple ways on Monday night, flashing his elite potential. If Cruz puts it all together he will be a very, very special player for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Cruz and Madris became the second pair of rookie teammates to combine for at least 5 hits and 6 RBI in their season debut since Gary Gaetti and Kent Hrbek did it for the Minnesota Twins on Opening Day in 1982. Madris became the first Pirate to record 3 hits in their MLB debut since Jason Kendall in 1996.

Oh, let’s not overlook Jack Suwinski’s performance, either. One day after he hit 3 home runs including a walk off blast in a historic performance, Suwinski had another strong night at the plate. He drew a walk and hit a 107.5 MPH double into the right field corner. One of the outs Suwinski made was a 94.9 missile hit right at Jason Heyward.

Another strong JT Brubaker start

Early on it appeared that JT Brubaker may struggle to go more than 3 or 4 innings. He was battling his control and throwing a lot of pitches. To his credit, starting with a four-pitch 4th inning, Brubaker started to get in control of the game and was Abel to pitch 6 scoreless inning.

Brubaker limited the Cubs to 5 hits, while walking 3 batters and striking out 5 in his 6 scoreless innings pitched. Despite not having his best stuff and appearing to be battling some sort of finger ailment, he still generated 9 swings-and-misses.

After struggling in his first start and being brunt by poor defense in his second start, Brubaker has turned a corner. In his last 12 starts he has posted a 3.47 ERA, 8.6% walk rate and a 22.6% strikeout rate in 62.2 innings pitched. Brubaker looks like a guy who is turning a corner as a MLB starting pitcher. It should be a lot of fun to watch Brubaker in the final three months of the season to see how he can finish.

Pirates kick open the floodgates in the 7th inning

Entering the 7th inning the Pirates led 7-0. After the Cubs scored a run off of Tyler Beede in the top half of the inning, the Pirate offense went back to work in the bottom half of the inning and truly kicked open the floodgates.

Bryan Reynolds singled to start the inning, his second hit of the night, and this was followed by Suwinski’s aforementioned double. Daniel Vogelbach then cranked a double off the top of the center field wall for his second hit of the game, scoring both Reynolds and Suwinski.

With one out in the inning Cruz’s picked up his RBI single to score Vogelbach and make the score 10-1. After Madris singled, Tyler Heineman snapped an 0-for-25 string by hitting a double. Park then hit his second sacrifice fly of the night to score Madris and make the score 12-1 Pirates.

Time for Cody Bolton to Get an Opportunity. dark. Next

Roansy Contreras (3.06 ERA, 3.87 FIP) will toe the rubber for the Pittsburgh Pirates in game two of the series on Tuesday night. Struggling righty Matt Swarmer (5.23 ERA, 8.74 FIP) will start for the Cubs. First pitch from PNC Park is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET.