Pittsburgh Pirates: Vince Velasquez Leads the Way to Victory With 6 Scoreless Innings in St. Louis
By Marty Leap
Vince Velasquez fired 6 scoreless innings and the offense came to life in the later innings as the Pittsburgh Pirates captured game one of their four-game series at Busch Stadium
Thursday night saw the Pittsburgh Pirates play a National League Central opponent for the first time this season. The club traveled to Busch Stadium in St. Louis for the start of a four-game series, which will kick off a seven-game road trip.
The road trip could not have gotten off to a better start for the Pirates. Led by a much need strong bounce back performance from their starting pitcher, strong outfield defense, and an offense that exploded in innings 5-9, the Pirates defeated the Red Birds 5-0. With the win, the Pirates are now 8-5 on the season. It was also the team's biggest shutout win in St. Louis since a 9-0 victory at Busch Stadium in April 2013.
Ji Hwan Bae flashes the leather
Super utility man Ji Hwan Bae has been one of hte biggest plesant surprsies of the first 12 games of the Pirate season. Thursday night, he started in center field and on more than one occassion he would flash the leather in center.
With the game scoreless in the bottom of the 4th inning the Cardinals had a pair of runners on base following back-to-back two-out walks. Tyler O'Neill then lined a ball toward the center field wall that was looking like a 2-run double. Bae, however, had other ideas as he went full throttle into the outfield wall to rob O'Neill of a hit and a pair of RBI.
In the bottom of the 5th inning Bae would strike again. With the game still scoreless, and once again with two outs, Alec Burleson hit a ball to center. After Bae initially misread the ball, he recovered to come racing in for a diving catch to end the inning.
So far this season Bae has done nothing but impress. He's impressed with his bat, his speed, and his glove. Continuing to watch the development of Bae as the season goes on should be a lot of fun for Pirate fans.
Pirates strike first
Through the game's first 5 innings both teams were scoreless and neither had very many scoring opportunities. Leading off the top of the 6th inning Andrew McCutchen doubled to left field, setting up the first run of the night.
Following the McCutchen double, Carlos Santana hit a ball off of Nolan Arenado's glove that rolled into left field. This allowed McCutchen to score as Santana collected his second double of the night, making the score 1-0 Bucs.
After Santana advanced to third base on a ground out, he attempted to score on a ground ball that Connor Joe hit into a drawn in infield. Santana also suffered an injury scare on the play when his wrist got rolled on underneath Cardinal catcher Willson Contreras.
In the top of the 7th inning the Pirates would add on.
Bae singled with one out. Jason Delay single and Ke'Bryan Hayes drew a walk. The back-to-back batters reaching base was followed by a sacrifice fly tor center field by McCutchen. Cutch's sacrifice fly gave him 729 career RBI as a Pirate, putting him 10th in team history, while also giving the Bucs a 2-0 lead.
Vince Velasquez shoves in his best Pirate start yet
After struggling in his first two Pirate starts, Vince Velasquez, much like Rich Hill a day prior, found himself in need of a strong start. Much like Hill did on Wednesday afternoon, Velasquez would turn in that strong start.
In the 1st inning the Cardinals had a runner on third base with just one out, but Velasquez stepped up getting a huge strikeout of Paul Goldschmidtt. Velasquez then got the final out of the inning to escape the jam.
With the aforementioned defensive help from Bae, Velasquez would mostly cruise after the 1st ininng. Velasquez pitched 6 scoreless innings, allowing three hits, walking two, and stirking out six. He also generated a healthy 18 swings-and-misses, which were the second most in a game for Velasquez in his career.
Throughout the night, Velasquez had Cardinal batters looking uncomfortable and almost lost at the plate. His start was driven by a slider that was wicked. This start was the first time since 2021 that Velasquez pitched at least 6 scoreless innings.
Bucs go back-to-back in the 8th
Looking to put the game on ice, the Pirates would go back-to-back in the 8th inning. First, Connor Joe hit a solo home run to left field. His 1st home run as a Pirate made the score 3-0. This was followed by a blast to center field by Rodolfo Castro. Castro's 1st home run of the season made the score 4-0 Pirates.
This was the first time since June 2012 that Pirate batters hit back-to-back home runs at Busch Stadium. The last Pirate batters to do so? Well, as you may have guessed, Clint Barmes and Alex Pressley!
Big Bank bounces back
Early on this season Dauri "Big Bank" Moreta had been one of the most reliable relievers in the Pirate bullpen. In Wednesday's loss against the Astros, he had his first poor outing as a Pirate when allowed 3 runs while recording just one out.
With the Pirates leading 5-0 in the 9th Derek Shelton decided to give the ball back to Moreta. Moreta repaid his manager's confidence by pitching a scoreless 9th inning that included a pair of strikeouts. This was despite Moreta allowing a double to start the inning.
Shelton going back to Moreta so quickly was a great decision. It showed the young reliever that his manager believes in him, and also gave him the opportunity to quickly flush Wednesday's clunker of an outing.
Game two of this series will see Johan Oviedo (3.16 ERA, 6.32 FIP) take the mound for the Pittsburgh Pirates as he prepares to battle his former team. Righty Jake Woodford (9.00 ERA, 9.07 FIP) will start for the St. Louis Cardinals as he looks to right the ship after two poor starts to begin the season. First pitch from Busch Stadium is scheduled for 8:15 PM ET.