Luis Ortiz shutdown the best offense in baseball, Andrew McCutchen recorded a historic hit, and Tucupita Marcano hit his first grand slam as the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Texas Rangers
In need of a victory after letting their series against the Arizona Diamondbacks slip away over the weekend, the Pittsburgh Pirates got just that on Monday night. Starting a challenging series agaisnt one of the American League's best squads in the Texas Rangers the Pirates picked up a 6-4 victory.
This was a victory that had a little bit of everything. Frustration from the Pirates with more sloppiness and early poor hitting with runners in scoring position, strong starting pitching, grand slams, and an uneasy 9th inning. But in the end, the Pirates are now 25-22 on the season.
History for Andrew McCutchen
Entering the night Andrew McCutchen needed just one hit to reach 1,500 in his career as a Pittsburgh Pirate. Cutch wasted no time as he led off the bottom of the 1st inning with a single to right field, giving him 1,500 as a Pirate.
This base knock combined with his 8th inning single brought Cutch's overall career total to 1,986 hits. So he is just 14 hits away from the 2,000 career hit milestone. McCutchen is truly one of the greats in Pirate history. There's an arugment to be made for him to be on the team's Mt. Rushmore. Monday night was just another milestone night in his Pirate career.
More early frustration
Early on in the game there was more sloppiness and frustration from the Pirates.
With runners on the corners and just one out in the 1st inning Carlos Santana struck out. Then with two outs, Jack Suwinski broke for second base. On the play Andrew McCutchen was to break for the plate in an attempt to steal a run, but McCutchen waited to long to break for the plate leading to him being caught in no man's land and being tagged out easily to end the inning.
In the 4th inning the Pirates once again had runners on the corners with just one out. A Connor Joe strikeout and Ji Hwan Bae groundout followed, stranding the base runners without either of them scoring.
The Pirates started the game 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and it was looking like it would be another night of frustrating offense and wasted opportunities in a loss. Thankfully, that would not be the case. The lone run the Pirates scored through the first 6 innings came when Ke'Bryan Hayes doubled to start the 2nd inning, moved up on a fly out and scored on a ground out.
Texas first run of the night involved frustration and sloppiness as well. If not for a wild pitch that Austin Hedges made a very poor attempted to backhand, the Rangers would not have scored their first run of the game.
Pirates bust it open in the 7th inning
The 7th inning saw the Pirate offense finally breakthrough. Most impressively, the damage all came with two outs. It also came after it looked like they may waste another scoring opportunity.
Bryan Reynolds singled with two outs and Jack Suwinski walked. Carlos Santana then singled to right field and originally Reynolds was called out at the plate. It was obvious Reynolds was safe, a quick review overturned the call and made the score 2-1 Pirates.
After Hayes walked, Tucupita Marcano stepped to the plate. Marcano drove a Joe Barlow pitch 419 feet into the bushes in straightaway center field. The first career grand slam for Marcano made the score 6-1 Pirates and gave him a 5 RBI on the night.
Luis Ortiz shoves, sets the tone
While the Pirate offense was able to breakthrough to put the game away in the 7th inning, it was Luis Ortiz who set the tone for the Pirates. In what will likely be his final start before returning to the minors with Vince Velasquez nearing a return from the injured list, Ortiz attacked and shutdown arguably the best lineup in baseball.
So far this season the Ranger lineup has been as good as any in baseball. However, you never would have known that watching Ortiz mow them down and especially the ease with which he did so in his start.
After Saturday's frsutrating loss and Sunday's sloppy one the Pirates were in dire need of a strong start from Ortiz. If nothing else, it was needed to set the tone for the team and help wash away the last two games. That is exactly what Ortiz did.
Ortiz did a much better job of mixing up and commanding his pitches than he did in his last start. He was the most aggressive he's been in any of his three MLB starts this season and pounded the strike zone showing no fear against as good a lineup as there is in baseball.
Entering the 8th inning Ortiz had thrown less than 80 pitches. Not only did a compelte game seem doable, a Maddux seemed very within reach. While Ortiz failed to get out of the 8th inning it was still a good learning experience.
After getting ahead of the first two batters in the inning 0-2 Ortiz issued back-to-back walks. Hopefully, this serves as a lesson on remaining aggressive in these situations. He also bounced back by inducing a 6-3 double play to put a foot down and help squash any real rally attempt.
Ortiz was pulled after allowing a two-out run-scoring hit to cut the Pirate lead to 6-2. Colin Holderman got the final out of the inning, closing the book on Ortiz. The young righty needed 93 pitches, 59 of which he threw for strikes, to get through 7.2 innings pitched. He allowed 2 runs on five hits, two walks, and four struck outs. In the best start of his still very young MLB career Ortiz generated 10 swings-and-misses.
Things get uneasy in the 9th
David Bednar has been dominant for the Pirates this season. So, he was likely due for a poor outing. Well, Monday night was a good night for Bednar to have a poor inning.
Bednar allowed a 2-run home run to Josh Jung that cut the Pirate lead to 6-4. This was the first home run allowed by Bednar this season. Hedges failing to squeeze a would be strike 3 led to a 10 pitch at-bat following the Jung home run, but Bednar was able to induce a fly out followed by a strikeout to end the game.
Things got uneasy, but Bednar did his thing and slammed the door shut.
Veteran Rich Hill (3.80 ERA, 4.62 FIP) will look to continue his recent strong stretch when he starts for the Pirates on Tuesday night. The Pirate offense will face a tough task going agaisnt Nathan Eovaldi (2.83 ERA, 2.46 FIP). First pitch for game two of the series from PNC Park is scheduled for 6:35 PM ET.