Pittsburgh Pirates: Rich Hill Steps Up Big Time, Bucs Sweep the St. Louis Cardinals

Jun 4, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA;  Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Bryan Reynolds (10)
Jun 4, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates left fielder Bryan Reynolds (10) / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Rich Hill stepped up in a big way for the Pittsburgh Pirates and they had just enough offense to finish off a series sweep of the St. Louis Cardinals

Sunday morning the Pittsburgh Pirates were looking to finish off a three-game series sweep against their divisional rival St. Louis Cardinals. After having to rally from behind in teh first two games of the series, the Pirates jumped out to an early lead they never let go to complete the sweep on Sunday.

Following a hard fought 2-1 victory over the Cardinals on Sunday the Pirates have now won five games in a row. This winning streak improves them to 31-27 on the season, gets them off to a 3-0 start to their homestand, and are now 5-2 agaisnt the Cardinals this season.

Good 1st inning on both sides of the ball for the Pirates

In the first two games of the series the Pittsburgh Pirates got off to sluggish starts. Sunday afternoon, however, was a different story. 

Tommy Edman lined a ball on the first pitch of the game that appeared to be headed for the Northside Notch. Jack Suwinski made a great diving play and nearly caught the ball. While Suwinski lost the ball when he hit the ground, his tremendous effort prevented Edman from getting a triple. 

Suwinski’s effort proved key as Rich Hill got a strikeout with Edman on third base and one out. Hill then got Nolan Arenado to line out to end the inning. Suwinski holding Edman to a double saved a run. 

In the bottom half of the inning, the Pirates then struck go grab the lead. 

With two outs and two runners on base, one of which was Suwinski after a base hit, Ke’Bryan Hayes lined a ball off Paul Goldschmidt’s glove that went for an infield hit. Ji Hwan Bae then had a base hit to center field that plated a pair of runs, and gave the Pirates a 2-0 lead after an inning of play.

Rich Hill steps up big time

The Pirate bullpen was an exhausted group entering Sunday's game. Due to this, the team needed Rich Hill to give them innings. No matter how Hill was pitching he was likely to be tasked with pitching at least 5 innings. Well, Hill gave the team much more than that and pitched well while doing so.

Outside of a solo home run by Andrew Knizner in the 7th inning, Hill did not allow a run. That home run was one that Hill would like to have back after he missed his spot with an 0-2 pitch. He then allowed a single to bring his day to an end.

Hill fired 6.2 innings for the team, allowing just that lone run on four hits, three walks, and six strikeouts. He threw 62 of 96 pitches for strikes and generated 8 swings-and-misses. No matter how you slice it, Sunday's start form Hill was an excellent one.

Other than Mitch Keller's complete game shutout against the Rockies last month there is an argument to be made that Hill's start on Sunday was the best of the season from a Pirate starter. With his time in dire need of strong start that went deep into the game, the veteran lefty provided just that. A huge tip of the cap to Dick Mountain on Sunday.

Struggles with runners on base, offense shut down by Cardinal bullpen

The Pirates had every opportunity in the world to add on to the 2-0 lead they grabbed in the 1st inning. They got 10 hits off of Cardinal starter Miles Mikolas in his 5 innings of work with six of them having an exit velocity of 100+ MPH. But, outside of Bae's 1st inning single, failed to come up with another big hit off Mikolas.

The Pirates started the day 2-for-2 with runners in scoring position. Pirate batters then went 0 for their next 7 with RISP against Mikolas. This led to them leaving 8 runners on base through the game's first 5 innings.

After struggling to find that big, potentially knockout hit against Mikolas the Pirate offense did nothing against the Cardinal bullpen. Jordan Hicks walked Carlos Santana with two outs in the 7th inning. Outside of this, the Cardinal bullpen did not allow a base runner in 4 innings of work.

Thankfully, the offensive woes did not hurt the Bucs.

Bullpen steps up again

The Pirate bullpen was far from full strength on Sunday. Despite this, they continued to pitch like one of the best bullpens in the National League to help the team complete the series sweep of the Cardinals.

Dauri Moreta came in with a runner on first and two outs in the 7th inning, and proceeding to strikeout Goldscmidt to end the inning. After Moreta struck what is becoming his patented pose, that was it for his day.

Yohan Ramirez was given the ball in the 8th inning and posted a zero. Ramirez continues to be a tremendous find by general manager Ben Cherington and his scouting department. It's hard to say where this Pirate bullpen would be without him.

Then in the 9th inning, it was time for the Renegade. For the first time in his career David Bednar took the ball for a third consecutive game. Bednar's stuff still looked filthy and the only base runner he allowed came on an 0-2 bloop single to right field. He then sturck out Knizner to end the game.

Next up

This nine-game homestand continues for the Pirates when the lowly Oakland A's come to town on Monday. Johan Oviedo (4.50 ERA, 4.13 FIP) is slated to start for the Pirates. As of this writing, Oakland's starting pitcher was TBA. First pitch for the series opener is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET at PNC Park.

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