Two 7th inning moonshot home runs and 5 scoreless innings from the bullpen led the Pittsburgh Pirates to arguably their best win of the season thus far
Friday night was the start of a huge nine-game homestand for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Facing an opportunity to start to get back o ntrack after struggling for most of May, the Pirates found themselves in an early 5-0 hole.
To the team's credit, the Battling Buccos fought back for a 7-5 victory over their divisional rival St. Louis Cardinals. With the win the Pirates have now won three games in a row for the first time since April, improving to 29-27 on the season.
This marked the first time the Pirates had rallied form 5+ runs down as late as the 6th inning in a game since July of 2021 against the New York Mets. Comeback victories like this always feel good, but they feel even better against the Cardinals. There is a strong argument to be made this was the team's best win of the season thus far.
Two out, two strike 3rd inning sturggles sinks Roansy Contreras start
Returning to the Pirate starting rotation after making an appearance out of the bullpen, Roansy Contreras started his outing strong on Friday night. He struck out the side in the 1st inning, and had four strikeouts through 2 innings.
In the 3rd inning, however, things came complete unglued for Contreras.
Contreras quickly got the first two outs of the 3rd inning. He then allowed a two-out, two-strike double to Tommy Edman. A Brendan Donovan home run, the first of two allowed in the inning by Contreras, followed and it was 2-0 Cardinals.
When the smoke settled in the 3rd inning the Cardinals led 5-0. This led was the result of five straight two-out hits, with these hits including both two home runs and two doubles. What was most frustrating is that a lot of this damage came from Contreras missing spots with two strike pitches.
All told, Contreras allowed those 5 runs on seven hits, the two home runs, no walks, and six strikeouts in 4 innings pitched. Despite his 3rd inning struggles there were some positive signs from Contreras, such as his 12 swings-and-misses and the amount of looking strikes he complied. Contreras still needs to figure something out with his fastball and quit missing spots with two strikes, but the potential is there to be a really good starting pitcher.
Pirate offense explodes in the 7th inning
Through the first 6 innings the Pirate offense was plagued by a lot of the same issues that plagued them for much of June. Even though they were getting runners on base, they were failing to get the big hit and found themselves trailing 5-1.
Well, in the 7th inning, the offense finally exploded.
Tucupita Marcano doubled to start the inning and Andrew McCutchen drew a one out walk. Both of those base runners reached against Andre Pallante. After they exectued a double steal on the first pitch of a Jack Suwinski at-bat, Pallante was pulled for Giovanny Gallegos.
Pulling Pallante for Gallegos one pitch into the Suwinski's at-bat was a strang decision by Cardinal manager Oli Marmol, and it is one he is likely questioning. Gallegos walked Suwinski then surrendered a 2-run ground rule double to Carlos Santana.
With the Pirates trailing 5-3 and two runners in scoring position with two outs, Ji Hwan Bae battled Gallegos in a tough AB but went down swinging. This brought Ke'Bryan Hayes to the plate with the game's control and momentum up for grabs.
Earlier in the game Hayes came through with a run-scoring single. Just as Bob Walk was mentioning how in recent games the swing and contact from Hayes have been much better and it could be a sing of him pulling out of his slump, the Pirate third base launched a 421 foot blast deep into the left field seats.
The 3-run blast by Hayes, his 3rd of the season, gave the Pirates their first lead of the night at 6-5. This home run was followed by a 426 foot blast over the Clemente Wall off the bat of Josh Palacios. Both the 1st home run of the season and his career, Palacios extended the Pirate lead to 7-5.
For as much as the Pirate offense struggled in the month of May it does appear that the Bucco offense is starting to pull out of their slump. This marks the third time in the last seven games that they have scored at least 7 runs, and they have scored at least 4 runs four times. Maybe just maybe the Pirate offense is starting to get back in gear.
Pirate bullpen steps up in a big way
The Pittsburgh Pirates have the third lowest bullpen ERA in the National League. So, strong games from the Pirate bullpen should probably stop coming as a surprise. However, with the relievers who were used, Friday night's performance was a surprise.
After Contreras lasted just 4 innings, lefty Rob Zastryzny, who has struggled this season, took the ball in the 5th inning. Despite allowing a pair of hits and issuing a walk, Zastryzny was able to post a zero dorpping is ERA on the season back below 5.00 in the process.
Maybe the most impressive relief appearance of the night came from Cody Bolton. After getting absolutely shelled while recording just one out against the Giants on Monday, the rookie responded in his first outing since then. Even though Bolton issued four walks, including three in the 6th inning to load the bases, he struck out a pair in 1.2 scoreless innings pitched.
Many young relievers coming off an outing like the one Bolton had would have folded after walking the bases loaded. To Bolton's credit, he fought and battled to fire 1.2 scoreless innings. Yohan Ramirez was able to help pick up Bolton by recording the final out of the 7th inning.
Once the Pirates took the lead they went to their shutdown duo. Colin Holderman allowed a hit but pitched a scoreless 8th inning. David Bednar gave up a cheapy bloop hit, but a struck a batter out in a scoreless 9th inning to pick up his 11th save of the season.
Luis Ortiz (4.35 ERA, 5.42 FIP) is slated to toe the rubber for the Pirates on Saturday afternoon. Meanwhile, the Cardinals plan to send lefty Jordan Montgomery (4.48 ERA, 3.92 FIP) to the mound. First pitch from PNC Park is scheduled for 4:05 PM ET.