Pittsburgh Pirates: Takeaways From Frustrating Series Split in St. Louis

Apr 16, 2023; St. Louis, Missouri, USA;  Pittsburgh Pirates manager Derek Shelton (17) walks off the
Apr 16, 2023; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates manager Derek Shelton (17) walks off the / Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
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Best series of the season for the starting pitching

Entering the season the expectation was that the Pirates could have a solid starting rotation, but a bullpen that would struggle. Well, so far in 2023 it has largely been the other way around. However, in this four-game trip to Busch Stadium the Pirate starting rotation turned in their best series of the season thus far.

It started with Vince Velasquez on Thursday night. After allowing 8 runs in 7.1 innings pitched across his first two starts, Velasquez bounced back to strikeout six Cardinal batters while firing 6 scoreless innings. He allowed just three hits, walked two, and generated 18 swings-and-misses which was the second-highest of his career.

Driven by a wicked slider, on Friday night Johan Oviedo shoved against his former club turning in arguably the best start of his MLB career. Oviedo allowed just seven baserunners while surrendering 1 run and striking out a career-high 10 batters in 7 innings pitched.

After being a bit snakebitten by some tough luck that led to him allowing a pair of 1st inning runs, Roansy Contreras settled in on Saturday to turn in a strong bounce back start after struggling against the Astros earlier in the week. Contreras pitched 6 innings, allowing just those 2 runs and striking out six batters. This included Contreras finishing strong by striking out the side in his final inning of work. Contreras did what starting pitchers with top of the rotation potential do on days when they do not have their best stuff, he battled and still turned in a strong start.

Mitch Keller had the worst start of the series, but still pitched well. Keller allowed 3 earned runs on seven hits, two walks, a home run, and three strikeouts. With the Pirates leading 3-1 with two outs in the bottom of the 6th, Keller allowed a game-tying 2-run home run to Lars Nootbaar. His outing was more than good enough for the Pirates to win, offensive struggles and Wil Crowe (more on him later) pooping the bed in the 10th inning did the team in.

Once you factor in Rich Hill's strong start in Wednesday's series finale against the Houston Astros and Keller's start last Tuesday, for the first time this season the Pirates have gone through the rotation one time with nothing but strong starts. It marks six straight starts of at least 6 innings pitched for Pirate starters, they've also allowed 3 earned runs or less in each of these starts. If the starting rotation can get into a groove, then the Pirates will be in a great spot to continue their strong start to the season and keep winning baseball games.