Pittsburgh Pirates: Mitch Keller Dominates Orioles, Plays Stopper Once Again
Mitch Keller turned in his second consecutive dominant start, the offense posted 4 early runs, and the Pittsburgh Pirates salvaged the final game of their weekend series in Baltimore
Sunday afternoon the Pittsburgh Pirates took the field at Camden Yards in Baltimore in dire need of a victory. Having lost 11 of their last 12 games, the Pirates sent their ace to the mound in search of a shutdown performance and a victory. That is exactly what the team got.
A historic pitching performance from the Pirate pitching staff fueled a 4-0 shutout victory over the Orioles. With the win, the Pirates improved to 22-19 on the season by salvaging the final game of their three-game series in Baltimore.
Offense strikes early
When an offense is struggling the way the Pirate offense is any runs will feel great. Striking for runs early can be an even bigger boost for a team, and striking for runs early is exactly what the Pirates did on Sunday afternoon.
Batting leadoff for the first time this season, and the first time with the Pittsburgh Pirates since 2011, Andrew McCutchen singled to start the game. After going to third on a Bryan Reynolds single, McCutchen scored when Carlos Santana hit into a fielder’s choice to make it 1-0 Pirates.
Their lead grew in the 3rd inning when Ke’Bryan Hayes singled home a run. Ji Hwan Bae had a two-out single to plate a pair, making it 4-0 Pirates.
This snapped the Pirates' streak of 12 consecutive games having scored 3 runs or less. Having the Pirate offense take off for a 4-0 lead through 3 innings felt like a huge sign of relief for a team in dire need of something like that offensively.
Mitch Keller dominates once again
For so long the Pirates have lacked a true top of the line ace starting pitcher. The team now has that in Mitch Keller. After pitching a complete game shutout in his last start, Keller was at it again on Sunday afternoon.
Keller did what aces do, and he did it for a second consecutive start. Keller put a foot down and played stopper for the Pirates. The Pirates had lost four straight games with their last win coming when Keller started last this past Monday. Just as Keller did in his last start, he dominated and ended a losing streak.
In 7 shutout innings pitched, Keller allowed four hits, did not walk a batter, hit a batter, and struck out 13. He filled the strike zone throwing 70 of his 93 pitches for strike, this included Keller frequently freezing Oriole batters and rendering them unable to pull the trigger. He also generated 12 swings-and-misses.
Keller's 13 strikeouts were a new career high. This was also just the third time in Pirate history that a pitcher struck out at least 13 batters without issuing a walk. At this point there is no way to deny that Keller is one of the best starting pitchers in the National League.
With this start Keller now owns a 2.38 ERA and a 2.62 FIP in 56.2 innings pitched across his nine starts this season. His 69 strikeouts are the third most in all of baseball, nice. In 31 starts dating back to last May, Keller now owns a 2.95 ERA and 175 strikeouts in 177 innings pitched. Ladies and gentlemen, the Pirates finally have their ace.
Austin Hedges gets on base three times
We have been very critical of Austin Hedges. Most Pirate fans have. However, Sunday afternoon the Pirate catcher had a rare strong offensive game. For that, he deserves to get a shoutout and some recognition.
Hedges entered the game with an OPS+ of 10 and a wRC+ of 12. Sunday afternoon, however, we was 1-for-2 with a pair of walks. This marked the first time all season that Hedges was able to get on base three times in a game.
It's tough to say what a hot streak at the plate looks like for Hedges, but maybe this will be the start of a such a thing.
David Bednar slams the door in the 9th
After Colin Holderman pitched a scoreless 8th inning with relative ease, David Bednar ran into some trouble in the 9th inning. However, Bednar did not allow the potential trouble to bubble up and burn him.
Adam Frazier registered a weakly hit bloop single off of Bednar to start the inning and the following batter reached on an error. The Renegade then put a foot down with back-to-back strikeouts before getting Adley Rutschman to pop out to end the game.
Bednar's performance finsihed off a 17 strikeout performance for Pirate pitching. This marked the first time in franchise history that Pirate pitchers struck out 17 batters in a game without issuing a walk.
Following an off day on Monday the Pirates will head to Detroit for a brief two-game series against the Tigers. Luis Ortiz (3.60 ERA, 6.09 FIP) is set to make his second start of the season for the Pirates, while the Tigers plan to send veteran righty Michael Lorenzen (4.18 ERA, 4.18 FIP) to the mound. First pitch from Comerica Park on Tuesday is scheduled for 6:40 PM ET.