Pittsburgh Pirates: Mitch Keller Goes 6 Strong, Mark Mathias Comes Through in 4-2 Victory Over the Reds
By Marty Leap
Mitch Keller pitched 6 strong innings, Mark Mathias is the REAL Double M of Pittsburgh sports, and the bullpen did their job as the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Cincinnati Reds 4-2
Looking to stay hot, the Pittsburgh Pirates hosted the Cincinnati Reds in the second game of their four-game series at PNC Park on Friday night. Well, staying hot is exactly what the Pirates would do in front of an energetic crowd.
Riding another strong starting pitching performance, just enough offense, and strong bullpen work, the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Cincinnati Reds 4-2. With the win, the Pirates are now a season-best seven games over .500 at 14-7. With this win the Pirates are off to their best 21 game start since 1992 and they are one of just four MLB clubs with 14 wins thus far.
Your nightly reminder that this is what good, fun, high quality baseball looks like. We deserve this. It has been far too long since we have had this. So for however long this last, enjoy it, Pirate fans, because we most certainly deserve it.
Mitch Keller keeps the streak alive
Entering this game Pirate starting pitchers had gone at least 6 innings while allowing 3 runs or less in 10 straight starts. Mitch Keller proceeded to make that 11 straight starts. It is safe to say that the Pirate rotation is in a groove right now.
Through the first 4 innings of the game, Keller held the Reds hitless. He allowed a single to start the 5th inning, a single that would have been a double if not for a terrific play by Connor Joe in right field to get the ball in quickly, then issued a walk.
The walk was one Keller likely found himself kicking for. He threw two rather uncompetitive balls in the at-bat, leading to a walk that would be costly. Keller would allow a run-scoring single and a sacrifice fly to the next two batters, tying the game at 2 after 5 innings played.
Keller shut the Reds down in the 6th inning, ending his night. In 6 innings pitched Keller allowed 2 runs on four hits, a walk, no home runs, and five strikeouts. Keller generated 7 swings-and-misses, limited hard contact, and looked good throughout the start.
Mark Mathias gives the Bucs an early lead
Following a slow start with the Pirates, Mark Mathias has started to improve at the plate. He has started to consistently put together strong at-bats and has started to pick up some big hits for the Bucs. In fact, it is safe to say he has become THE best MM in all of Pittsburgh sports today.
The latest big hit from Mathias came in the 2nd inning on Friday night. After Connor Joe singled and Jack Suwinski walked with one out, they would each advance a base on a balk. Mathias then proceeded to single the two of them home to give the Bucs a 2-0 lead. As we will get to, this was not the end of Mathias helping to produce runs for the night.
Connor Joe does it all
Starting in right field, Connor Joe did a bit of everything for the Pittsburgh Pirates. At the plate he was 3-for-3 with a double, a walk, and two runs scored. In addition to his great play to hold Stephenson to a single, he also made a sliding catch in foul territory to end the 6th inning.
Joe has been nothing short of fantastic for the Pirates this season. Through 61 plate appearances he is now hitting for a .377/.459/.679 slash line with a 201 wRC+. He's been a strong base runner and has played well in the outfield. Joe is looking like one hell of an offseason addition by general manager Ben Cherington.
Bucs regain the lead in the 6th... but come away unsatisfied
With one out in the 6th inning Joe put together another strong at-bat that ended in a base hit. After moving up to second base on a wild pitch and taking third base on a ground out, Joe found himself at third base with two outs.
Mathias hit a 97.4 MPH missile right at Cincinnati shortstop Jose Barrero. With the ball hit hard Barrero failed to field it cleanly and then made a poor throw that could not be picked at first base. That allowed Joe to score, made Mathias safe at first base, and gave the Pirates the lead back at 3-2.
After reaching on the error Mathias would move up to second base on a pitch in the dirt that he was already running on. Working around Rodolfo Castro, the Reds walked the Pirate shortstop to bring up catcher Austin Hedges. Hedges ripped a single to left field and Mathias was sent home. However, a great throw by TJ Friedl and an even better tag by Tyler Stephenson nailed Mathias at the plate to end the inning.
This inning felt like one in which the Pirates should have done more damage. But in all reality, all they did was force the Reds to make a good defensvie play and, to their credit, the Reds did just that. Wasting a rare Hedges hit, especially since it came with a runner in scoring position, was not any less frustrating, though.
Bullpen slams the door shut
The Pirate bullpen continues to be one of the biggest surprises in all of basbeall. On Friday night, they once again took the ball and did their job.
Ex-Red Robert Stephenson took the ball in the 7th inning and pitched a scoreless inning. Colin Holderman and David Bednar continue to look like one of the best 8th/9th inning duos in baseball. Holderman struck out a pair to post a zero after allowing an infield hit, which easily could have been ruled an error, to start the inning. Bednar then mowed the Reds down on just 8 pitches to slam the door shut in the 9th.
"We're all in, our goal is to win the Central." That's what Holderman had to say on the field to AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh after the game. Make no mistake about it, no matter how anyone else feels this team has high goals and does not lack confidence or self belief.
Saturday night Rich Hill (5.57 ERA, 7.10 FIP) will take the mound for the Pirates looking for his third consecutive strong start. Luis Cessa (13.50 ERA, 8.34 FIP) is slated to start for the Reds. Weather permitting, first pitch from PNC Park is scheduled for 6:35 PM ET.