Pirates Recap: Home Runs Help the Reds to a Series Win

The Pittsburgh Pirates dropped their first series of the year to the Cincinnati Reds, losing the deciding game by a 3-1 score on Sunday.

Pirates free agent starter Vince Velasquez made his debut, going 4.2 innings with three runs allowed. He was hurt by the long ball, which was a theme for the Pirates in Great American Ball Park. Velasquez gave up a home run to Jason Volster in the second inning to give the Reds an early 1-0 lead. His day ended with another home run in the fifth, this one to TJ Friedl, which gave the Reds their final 3-1 lead.

The Pirates got on the board with the long ball as well, getting their lone run from a Bryan Reynolds solo shot, his first of the year.

The offense was mostly quiet, other than a double from Andrew McCutchen and two hits from Connor Joe. Both outfielders were busy in the field today with highlight reel catches.

In the bottom of the seventh, Wil Crowe got Kevin Newman to hit an easy liner to left, which was caught after a nice diving catch by Joe.

Crowe gave up two hits, and a bunt put runners at second and third with two outs. That’s when he got help from McCutchen, who didn’t show any signs of his age with a running catch to rob Tyler Stephenson of a two RBI double– causing Stephenson to slam his helmet in the dirt in frustration after the play.

Crowe pitched two innings, and Duane Underwood Jr. added a scoreless eighth with two strikeouts. Rob Zastryzny gave up a walk and a hit before getting the final out in the fifth inning after relieving Velasquez. The bullpen kept the Pirates in the game, but the offense was quiet.

The Pirates went 0-for-8 on the day with runners in scoring position, and left six men on base. McCutchen was stranded on second after his two-out double in the sixth. Joe was stranded on second in the seventh.

The best scoring chance came in the eighth inning, when a pinch hitting Rodolfo Castro and Oneil Cruz reached on back-to-back singles that were just out of reach of Reds fielders. Bryan Reynolds lined out, before Pittsburgh native Derek Law came on to retire Andrew McCutchen and Carlos Santana.

Alexis Diaz came on to shut things down for the Reds, retiring the Pirates in order in the ninth to close out the series.

The Pirates will travel to Boston tomorrow, where Johan Oviedo takes the mound for the first game of the series at 7:10 PM EST.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Are there live game discussions? I can’t find one anywhere.


I don’t even know half of the guys in the Reds lineup and they all looked like all stars for the past two games (minus Myers maybe). I’m glad it’s over…


I love the smell of hyperbole in the morning.


I think BC & DS tried to steal one today by pitching VV against a far inferior Reds lineup rather than the superior hitting Red Sox. Would’ve worked too if Pirates hitters had brought their bats to the plate today with RISP.


Say what you will about Cutch’s declining defense, but I’ll have you know he was one of two Pirates OFers (CSN was other) working on catching line drives an hour before game time. The work paid off today.

He’s the consummate professional baseball player. Hopefully the young guys will use this opportunity and model themselves after him.


Neat stuff, thank you. Wish the weekend would have at least included a winning series for you.

Signing ‘Cutch was a solid piece of work for this front office. Does not look or play the OF like a 36 year old 15 year MLB veteran, and the .556 OBP, fueled by 5 Walks and 2 hits in 13 PA is something I hope the rest of the lineup can emulate. He’s in Pittsburgh to be a leader!


Being old enough to see Roberto play many times, I thoroughly enjoyed the photo of Clemente at Forbes field. Ah, the memories. Notice the condition of the grass. Agronomy wasn’t anything like it is now, so even major league fields were ‘sandlot-like.’ It’s why they went to artificial for a time.
I suppose I’m being pessimistic, but Dylan Crews continued excellence probably assures the Pirates will choose someone else.
The Pirates just don’t hit, particularly with men on base. It’s frustrating.

b mcferren

are we one step closer to firing shelton?


This is the question I can’t stop asking since two years ago. I really don’t think they’re going to go anywhere with Shelton leading.

Wilbur Miller

We’re one step closer to him dying of old age in the job.


Scored 2 runs in 11 2/3 innings off the Reds bullpen…..that is a bad hitting performance.


Reynolds homer, 1st of many. Bucs losing a series, first of many.


Will be interesting in Boston…


Three Good Things So Far:

1) Past their prime or not, having professional hitters known for plate discipline really helps lengthen innings and the lineup. We chased two of the three starters early with high pitch counts. This is non-trivial for multiple reasons.
2) Multiple relievers look capable (small sample, but it’s encouraging) of stepping into setup roles. Not the relievers who were on the team last year, either, unsurprisingly.
3) O’Neil Cruz has ONE strikeout in 13 PA.
Combined his spring training and 3 regular season games he has only 15 Ks in 69 at bats. That’s 21.7%. That’s a 15 point decrease over last season.
Yes, that is a small sample size but K rate is one of the quicker stabilizing stats according to this article on FanGraphs.


Here is a list of rates from the article.

“Stabilization” Points for Offense Statistics:

60 PA: Strikeout rate
120 PA: Walk rate
240 PA: HBP rate
290 PA: Single rate
1610 PA: XBH rate
170 PA: HR rate
910 AB: AVG
460 PA: OBP
320 AB: SLG
160 AB: ISO
80 BIP: GB rate
80 BIP: FB rate
600 BIP: LD rate
50 FBs: HR per FB

Accordingly, Cruz is showing something very interesting right now. He has 3 home runs in the same 69 PA. That’s about a 25-30 homer rate for a leadoff hitter who doesn’t get injured. Lower that he is capable of but this list also says we need another 100 ABs for home run rate to stabilize.

In any case, those are three things I like so far. The last one, Cruz’ K rate? Let’s put it this way, Fangraphs Dan Szymborski suggested in his “breakouts” article that if Cruz could increase his overall amount of contact even 5% he would be a super star.l with legitimate 40/40 potential. So far things look promising.


Cruz is going to be Great with a capital G. The only thing holding him back from being a HOF type player is luck with his health and his desire to work hard enough on his craft.


Complimentary for the most part, but hard to understand where you are going with the second sentence.

This is a kid in his age 24 season, playing a key defensive position, and leading this team. He has been a full time SS for only 4 years (skipping 2020). Credit the Pirates with giving him the chance to play SS full time in 2018.

He did well in 2022 and I expect he will do even better in 2023, because he works hard every day. At 6’7″ he has to work harder just to play the Shortstop position, but he wanted the opportunity. To be perfectly honest, I saw a power hitting RF, and that may come later in his career, but for now he is a very good defensive SS who can hit the hell out of the ball!


Thank you for that link. Great stuff

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