Pittsburgh Pirates: Jack Suwinski Homers Twice to Power Victory at Coors Field
By Marty Leap
Vince Velasquez overcame a poor 1st inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates offense was powered by a pair of Jack Suwinski home runs in a 5-3 victory at Coors Field
It was not an easy win for the Pittsburgh Pirates. But, to the team's credit, it was a win. They had to battle through a poor start and some wasted opportunities, but when the dust settled the Pirates were 5-3 victors over the Colorado Rockies to improve to 11-7 on the season.
Tuesday night's victory marked the first time in franchise history that the Pittsburgh Pirates allowed 3 runs in the 1st inning in Colorado only to shut the Rockies out the rest of the way. It's only been 18 games but this team has proven to be a fighting, battling bunch. They're playing fun, high quality baseball. For however long this lasts, enjoy it.
Jack Suwinski heating up
Last season Jack Suwinski turned heads wit ha 19 home run rookie season. However, away from PNC Park, he struggled mightily hitting just .112. So far this season Suwinski has shown improvement as a hitter on the road, and that has continued into this series.
In his first at-bat of the night Suwinski hit a solo home run in the 2nd inning to cut the Rockie lead to 3-1. This came after Suwinski went deep in his last at-bat in Monday night's victory. Then in the 4th inning, Suwinski launched a 2-run home run to give the Bucs a 4-3 lead.
This marked the second time in his MLB career that Suwinski homered in three straight trips to the plate. Last season, Suwinski had just 17 hits and 3 home runs on the road. This season he has already colelcted 7 base hits and 3 home runs way from PNC Park and it's only April 18th. Suwinski appears to be heating up at the plate, while also solving his road woes.
Suwinski defense should also get a shoutout. With CJ Cron on first base, Ryan McMahon doubled into the right-center field gap in the 1st inning. Off the bat it appeared the hit would easily score Cron, but Suwinski raced into the gap, cut the ball off, and quickly got it into the infield to prevent Cron from scoring. Even though both McMahon and Cron would score on a base hit later in the inning, Suwinski still deserves a tip of the cap for this play.
Pirates hit for the cycle in the 4th inning
Colorado starter José Ureña had been woeful in his first three starts of the season. He pitched 10 innings in these three starts, allowing 11 earned runs (9.90 ERA), walking 8 batters, striking out 7, and surrendering 5 home runs. Through the first 3 innings on Tuesday night Ureña was pitching better, then in the 4th inning the Pirate offense exploded by hitting for the cycle.
Ex-Rockie Connor Joe started the inning with a ground rule double. Joe then came around to score on a Carlos Santana double, making the score 3-2. Santana's double was followed by Suwinski's 2nd home run of the night.
Ji Hwan Bae reached on an infield hit, but was thrown out trying to steal second base. This was followed by a Tucuptia Marcano triple that completed the Pirate cycle. Ureña then uncorked a wild pitch that did not get far away from catcher Elías Diaz, but Marcano used his plus speed and a great move at the plate to slide in safe to make the score 5-3 Bucs.
Vince Velasquez recovers from a poor 1st inning
Veteran Vince Velasquez struggled in two of his first three starts with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Early on, it looked like this start would make it three out of four poor ones for Velasquez. But to the veteran's credit, he was able to right the ship to turn in a strong start.
Velasquez allowed a one-out solo home run to all-time Pirate killer Kris Bryant, quickly giving the Rockies a 1-0 lead. Velasquez then allowed three straight two-out base hits, including a pair of doubles, to make the score 3-0 Colorado.
After this, Velasquez settle in, put a foot down, and was able to pitch 6 strong innings. The only hit Velasqeuz allowed after the 1st inning was a single that easily could have been ruled an error on Bae. He walked three batters, and struck out a total of seven for the start while generateing a total of nine swings-and-misses.
Velasquez did a great job freezing Rockie batters, including inducing strike threes looking. This marked back-to-back strong starts for Velasquez, as well as the 8th straight game in which the Pirates starting pitcher has gone at least 6 innings. If this starting pitching success continues, then the early season success of the Pirates could continue as well.
Bullpen survives a shaky 8th inning
Duane Underwood Jr. allowed a weakly hit single to right field to start the 7th inning, but quickly turned a 5-4-3 double play to erase the base runner. A double play that saw Ke'Bryan Hayes make a great running backhanded stop, before firing the ball to Marcano who made both a great pick and turn at second base.
After DUJ pitched his scoreless 7th inning, with Colin Holderman unavailable, Derek Shelton went to ex-Rockie Robert Stephenson in the 8th inning. Stephenson allowed a double and a single to start the inning, quickly making things stressful for the Pirates.
With runners on the corners and no one out, Stephenson put his big boy pants on and stepped up. Stephenson got a strikeout for the first out of the inning before gettng a line out that was hit right at Hayes at third base. Mike Moustakas would then give a ball a ride to left field that was scary off the bat, but Bryan Reynolds was able to track it down to end the inning with the Pirates still leading 5-3.
David Bednar slammed the door shut in the 9th inning, although it did not come painlessly. Bednar took a 103 MPH liner off the thigh from Jurickson Profar to start the inning, but Bednar was still able to find the ball and flip it to first base for the first out of the inning. After allowing a two-out double, Bednar struck out Cron to end the game and seal the Pirate victory.
Thankfully, wasted scoring opportunities do not hurt the Pirates
While the Bucco bats capitalized on their opportunity to post a crooked number in the 4th inning, they also wasted plenty of other scoring opportunities throughout the game. Many times this can be costly for a team, but especially in a game played at Coors Field. Thankfully, these wasted scoring opportunities would not come back to hurt the Pirates.
Pirate batters were just 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and they left 7 runners on base. This included leaving the bases loaded in the bases loaded in the 5th inning. There were also outs on the bases, with Bae and Hayes both getting thrown out trying to score. Bae was also picked off first base.
Against teams better than the Rockies these problems can not occur. Luckily, the Rockies are looking like one of the worst teams in the National League this season so the Pirates were able to overcome these miscues to land a victory.
Johan Oviedo (2.45 ERA, 4.20 FIP) will start for the Pirates as he will look to continue his strong start to the season. Struggling lefty Austin Gomber (8.16 ERA, 6.67 FIP) is slated to start for the Rockies. First pitch from Coors Field is scheduled for 3:10 PM ET.