Pittsburgh Pirates: Johan Oviedo Dominates White Sox in 1-0 Series Clinching Victory
By Marty Leap
Johan Oviedo turned in the best start of his young career and the Pittsburgh Pirates offense did just enough in a 1-0 victory, but all eyes turn toward a potential major injury to Oneil Cruz
After the two teams traded high scoring victories to start the series, the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago White Sox played the rubber match of their three-game series at PNC Park on Sunday afternoon.
Led by the best start of the young career of Johan Oviedo, the Pirates defeated the White Sox 1-0 to secure a series victory. With the win, the Pirates have improved to 6-3 through the first nine games they have played this season.
Sunday's win was a very impressive one. The White Sox have one of the best lineups in all of baseball and had scored 52 runs through the first eight games of the season, including 20 runs the previous two days. The Pirate pitching staff shut them down, and shutout a team that will not get shutout very often this season.
Pirates strike first
Cracking the starting lineup for the first time since last Wednesday, Canaan Smnith-Njigba started in right field and quickly made an impact. On Smith-Njigba's first swing of the day he put a pretty swing on a Michael Kopech slider and drove it off the Clemente Wall for a triple.
After Rodolfo Castro walked, Jack Suwinski stepped to the plate. Struggling mightily to start the season it was a big at-bat for Suwinski and it did not have a promising start. After swinging through two ptiches Suwinski quickly found himself in an 0-2 hole. To his credit, Suwinski laid off two pitches out of the strike zone, fouled a pitch off, and then drove a 2-2 pitch nearly to the wall in center field for a sacrifice fly to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead.
It was a much needed at-bat and result from Suwinski. Through first week plus of the season Suwinski likely would have struck out or popped out in that at-bat. To his credit, he made the adjustments he needing to make at the plate and was able to get the run home.
Johan Oviedo overcomes weird 5th inning in a strong start
Through the first 4 innings of the game Johan Oviedo was in total and complete control. In the 5th inning he got into a bit of a tough luck jam then encoutnered a very strange situation created by Laz Diaz seemingly being cluess.
One of the worst umpires in baseball not knowing what's going on, shocking, I know!
Anyway, with one out in the 5th inning the White Sox got a base runner on an infield hit that went off Oviedo's barehand when he tried to field a ball he should have let go. Romy Gonzalez then singled on a base hit that was just barely out of the reach of a diving Oneil Cruz.
After Gonzalez stole second base, the White Sox had runners on second and third with just one out. Oviedo would bounce back with a huge strikeout of Seby Zavala. Due to what appeared to be a pitch clock violation and a called strike, Oviedo appeared to be ahead in the count against Elvis Andrus 0-2. This is where things got weird.
Andrus swung and missed at a pitch that hit him and it appeared that he had struck out to end the inning. After the players him hawed around the field, Andrus returned to the batter's box. Thankfully, Andrus would fly out to center field to end the inning.
After the inning ended it was explained by Diaz that Andrus had actually called a timeout and was not issued a strike for a pitch clock violation. Diaz failing to clear this up during the actual inning led to mass confusion and created one very heated Greg Brown in the booth. Thankfully, in the end, Oviedo battled through and posted a zero.
Oviedo remained in control for most of the afternoon on Easter Sunday as he rose up to turn in the best start of his MLB career. In 6.2 innings pitched Oviedo allowed five hits, did not walk a batter, and struck out five. He generated a healthy 18 swings-and-misses and had command of his pitches throughout the start. When he needed a little extra, Oviedo was able to reach back and find it. Especially with his slider.
Oneil Cruz exits with a scary looking injury in a wild bottom of the 6th
It did not take the bottom of the 6th inning long to get wild. A 2-2 count on Oneil Cruz was changed to 3-1 when Andrus was called for a violation of the new shifting rules due to being lined up too deep in the right field grass. This led to Cruz drawing a walk on the next pitch.
With runners on the corners and no one out in the inning, Ke'Bryan Hayes hit a ground ball that Cruz broke home on. Following an awkward looking slide, if that's what you want to call it, at the plate by Cruz, he laid on the ground writhing in pain.
Carlos Santana took exception to Zavala on the play. After Santana started to bark, the benches and bullpens emptied onto the field at PNC Park. As the scrum ensued the Pirates were attempting to keep everyone away from Cruz who was still laying on the ground.
When the dust settled, Cruz was helped off the field unable to put any weight on his left leg at all. After Santana reached on a fielder's choice, Choi struck out to end the inning. Not only did the Pirates fail to capitalize on a golden opportunity to extend their lead, they may have also lost their most exciting player for the foreseeable future.
After the game Shelton told reporters that Cruz has fractured his left ankle. This will likely leave the Pirates without their budding superstar for at least 6-10 weeks. It's almost as if the baseball gods looked down, saw the Pirates off to a strong start with them playing exciting baseball, and said "nah, fam, you need to be in pain."
Pirate bullpen once again slams the door shut
Oviedo's day ended with two outs in the 7th inning and White Sox runner on third base. Dauri Moreta was called up to get out of the inning, and Big Bank did just that when struck out a pinch-hitting Yasmani Grandal looking.
Derek Shelton then turned to the next man up in the bullpen's big three by handing the ball to Colin Holderman for the 8th inning. With the assistance of a tremendous running, fielding play by Castro that featured a great stretch at first base by Choi, Holderman posted a zero.
In the 9th inning, it was renegade time. In typical David Bednar fashion he took the ball and ho hum he did his job. After quickly retiring the first two batters of the inning, Bednar allowed a bloop single to left field to Gavin Sheets. Bednar then struck out Oscar Colas on three pitches to slam the door shut.
Monday night the Pittsburgh Pirates will start a three-game series at PNC Park against the defending World Series Champion Houston Astros. Roansy Contreras will look to build upon his strong start against the Red Sox to start the season, while the Astros will send one of the best lefties in teh game in Framber Vladez to the mound. First pitch from PNC Park is scheduled for 6:35 PM ET.