Pittsburgh continued to impress in the month of April with a four-game split in St. Louis, followed by a sweep of the Rockies in Colorado and Cincinnati at home. The Pirates have improved to 16-7 on the season and have won seven games straight. The Pittsburgh starting pitching staff as a combined 2.15 ERA over its past 13 games.
Game 14: Pittsburgh 0, St. Louis 3
The Pirates looked to take a 2-0 advantage in the series against the Cardinals as Johan Oviedo would take the hill against Jake Woodford. It was evident the game would be a pitcher’s duel early, as both starters worked quickly and efficiently. Bryan Reynolds would ground into a double play in the first following Ji Hwan Bae being hit by a pitch to kill the inning. The double play would become a common occurrence for Woodford, as Austin Hedges grounded into an inning ending DP in the second.
In the fourth, Mark Mathias would single with runners on second and third, but Cannan Smith-Njigba would be thrown out at the plate. Hedges would double to start the fifth, but would be stranded. The first trouble of the game for Oviedo would come in the sixth, as Nolan Arenado slashed a one-out single and advanced to second on a fielder’s choice. Nolan Gorman would drive him home with a single of his own, giving the Cardinals the lead. Oviedo’s final line saw him go seven innings, allowing one run on six hits and one walk. He struck out 10 St. Louis hitters.
Duane Underwood Jr. would be called upon to try to keep it a one-run game in the eighth. He would fail this task, as he allowed both Wilson Contreras and Gorman to pick up RBI singles and extend the St. Louis lead to three. The Cardinals evened the series at one a piece.
Game 15: Pittsburgh 6, St. Louis 3
Roansy Contreras would face off with Steven Matz in a Saturday matinée game in St. Louis. The Pirates started the scoring early as Ke’Bryan Hayes blasted a solo shot over the center field wall for the first of his season. St. Louis would punch right back in the bottom of the inning, and Brendan Donovan and Alec Burleson would slash back-to-back doubles to tie the game. Gorman would then give the Red Birds the lead via a sacrifice fly.
Matz would run into trouble in the third inning as the Pirates put two on with two out. Carlos Santana would draw a walk to lead the bases before Connor Joe did the same, driving in a run and tying the game. Rodolfo Castro would go down swinging to end the inning and leave the bases loaded.
Both offenses would remain fairly quiet until the seventh. Rob Zastryzny would replace Contreras who went six innings allowing two runs on six hits, walking three and striking out six. Zastryzny would end up loading the bases with one out and being replaced by Robert Stephenson. Stephenson got a huge strikeout of Dylan Carlson before walking Paul Goldschmidt and giving St. Louis a 3-2 lead.
Pittsburgh would not go away, though, as a Joe single and a Castro RBI double re-tied the game. The game would remain tied through the ninth inning, triggering extras. With Reynolds as the ghost runner on second, Andrew McCutchen took the seventh pitch of his at-bat into the left field seats, giving the Pirates a 5-3 lead. Castro would add an insurance run following a Joe triple. Dauri Moreta would come on for the save and the Pirates would take game three.
Game 16: Pittsburgh 4, St. Louis 5
Mitch Keller would have the task of trying to win the four-game set in St. Louis. He would be opposed by Miles Mikolas for the Cardinals. The Pirates were back to its instant offense as Hayes tripled and Reynolds promptly delivered a sac fly. Just like the previous game, St. Louis answered right back as Contreras rolled one to the right side, driving in a run.
The Pirates would re-take the lead in the second as Hedges singled in Tucupita Marcano. The scoring would once again settle down until the sixth inning as the Bucs had runners on the corners with two outs. Marcano put the ball in play and Donavan made an error, allowing the Pirates to extend its lead to 3-1. Keller kept rolling until a Contreras double in the sixth. Lars Nootbaar would then hit a game-tying two-run homer two batters later. Keller went a solid six innings, allowing three runs on seven hits while walking two and striking out three.
In the seventh, Pittsburgh loaded the bases with two outs, but Joe was unable to come through as the game stayed tied. The Bucs would turn to Colin Holderman in the eighth, and the Cards would promptly put runners on second and third. The hard-throwing righty would work around the runner brilliantly, escaping the jam unscathed.
The game would see extra innings for the second straight day. The Pirates delivered once again as Carlos Santana moved the runner and Smith-Njigba brought him home. Derek Shelton turned to Wil Crowe in the bottom of the inning. After getting Arenado to line out, Crowe walked Contreras and allowed a game-tying double to Gorman. The Pirates intentionally walked Nootbaar to load the bases. Jordan Walker went down swinging for the second out, before Tommy Edman singled in the winning run, walking off the Pirates and tying the series at two.
Game 17: Pittsburgh 14, Colorado 3
The Pirates traveled West to Colorado as Rich Hill took the mound against Kyle Freeland. Pittsburgh would get the scoring started early, as it has become accustomed to doing. McCutchen put the Bucs up 1-0 with a solo shot to left center field. Hill would work out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the inning before the Pirates exploded offensively.
The Bucs would send seven hitters to the plate and score five times before the first out of the inning was even recorded. Joe walked to lead off the inning before Castro reached on an error. Mark Mathias singled in a run before Bae laid down a beautiful safety squeeze to push across another. Austin Hedges, Hayes, and Reynolds all added RBI singles, and Santana registered an RBI groundout as the Pirates left the top of the second leading 7-0.
Pittsburgh scored again via a Bae fielder’s choice and another Hayes single to extend its lead to nine. Rich Hill would settle into the game, only allowing a solo home run to Kris Bryant as he went six strong innings, allowing one run on six hits and two walks while striking out seven. When the dust settled, the Pirate offense piled on 14 runs on 16 hits. Hayes and Santana each registered three RBIs while five players had multi-hit games, including Mathias’ four hits. Wil Crowe went 1.1 in relief, allowing two runs, while Jose Hernandez tossed a solid 1.2 shutout innings to end the game.
Game 18: Pittsburgh 5, Colorado 3
The Pirates sent Vince Velasquez to the mound for game two of the series against Colorado’s Jose Urena. This time, it was the Rockies who would strike early. Colorado put up three first-inning runs thanks to Bryant’s second homer in as many days and a two-run Elias Diaz double. The Pirates would answer back quickly (which is also becoming a common theme) as Jack Suwinski smashed his second homer in as many nights to cut the lead to 3-1.
The scoring would settle down until the fourth inning as Connor Joe slashed a leadoff double. Santana would promptly double him in to cut the Colorado lead to 3-2. Suwinski would then strike again as he hit a monster two-run homer to right, giving the Pirates a 4-3 advantage. Tucupita Marcano would triple and score on a wild pitch to put Pittsburgh up 5-3 after 3.5 innings.
Velasquez settled in after his rough first inning, tossing six innings while allowing three runs on five hits and three walks. He struck out seven Rockies. Duane Underwood Jr., Robert Stephenson and David Bednar would each toss a scoreless inning to seal Pittsburgh’s 5-3 win and the series for the Pirates.
Game 19: Pittsburgh 14, Colorado 3
Johan Oviedo headed back to the hill for game three of the series as the Pirates looked to sweep the Rockies. Colorado sent Austin Gomber to the hill, looking to salvage a game. Gomber was greeted harshly by the Pirate bats in the first two frames. Hayes started the game with a double, which was followed by a McCutchen RBI double two batters later. Santana drove in McCutchen with a single, before Joe drove in Santana with a double. Jason Delay would break the inning wide open with a two-run single as the Pirates sent 10 hitters to the plate and scored five times.
The Pirate onslaught was not over, though. McCutchen blasted his fourth home run of the season to make it 6-0. Santana and Joe would reach, and Castro and Mathias would drive them both in. Suwinski’s sacrifice fly would make it 9-0 Pirates after two innings. It was more dominance from the young arm of Johan Oviedo as he would go six innings allowing only one run on three hits and three walks while fanning six.
Pittsburgh was not done scoring, as Castro smashed a three-run homer in the sixth, making it 12-1 Pirates. In the ninth, Marcano doubled in Hayes and Smith-Njigba brought in a run with an RBI groundout. Castro ended the day with four RBIs while McCutchen and Delay each collected two. Seven Pirates had multi-hit games, including Delay and Joe who had three each. Yoan Ramirez and Dauri Moreta performed well out of the bullpen in mop-up duty.
Game 20: Pittsburgh 4, Cincinnati 3
Roansy Contreras got the ball to open a four-game set with the Reds as the Pirates looked to start the series with a win. Luke Weaver would make his season debut on the bump for Cincinnati. To no one’s surprise, the Pirates jumped all over the Reds starter. Hayes singled to lead off the bottom of the first, and Reynolds walked. McCutchen and Santana would both be retired before Connor Joe would save the day with a three-run home run into the Pittsburgh bullpen. Not to be outdone, Suwinski launched one over the Clemente wall to go back-to-back with Joe and give the Bucs a 4-0 lead.
After the early offensive explosion, the bats for both sides went quiet as both pitchers settled into the game. Contreras was absolutely fantastic as his final line showed 6.2 innings, one run, five hits, two walks and eight strikeouts. Contreras was helped out defensively in the seventh as Hayes started a double play with an impressive spinning play at third. Jason Vosler would slash an RBI single to get the Reds on the board and chase Contreras. Stephenson would get the final out of the seventh, limiting the damage.
Colin Holderman was on for the eighth and would allow his first two runs of the season. Jose Barrero singled and advanced to second on an error by the pitcher before advancing to third on a wild pitch. Jonathan India drove him in with an RBI single. TJ Friedl singled, and then the Reds would successfully double steal to put the tying run on second with no one out. Holderman would tightrope out of danger, allowing a sac fly to cut the lead to 4-3 then grabbing a groundout and strikeout to end the inning. Bednar entered and slammed the door on the Reds with a quick 1-2-3 inning, clinching the Bucs’ fourth straight win.
Game 21: Pittsburgh 4, Cincinnati 2
The Pirates turned to Mitch Keller for game two of the series, as Cincinnati sent Derek Law to the mound. The first 10 batters of the game would be retired before Joe singled in the bottom of the second. Suwinski would walk to put two runners on. Law would then balk to allow the runners to advance to second and third. Mathias would capitalize, poking one into right center and driving in both runners. It was 2-0 Pittsburgh.
Keller would allow his first base runner with two outs in the fourth when he hit Spencer Steer with a pitch. The no-hit bid would be broken up by Tyler Stephenson’s single to lead off the fifth. Vosler would draw a one-out walk, and Nick Senzel collected an RBI single to put the Reds on the board. Barrero would add a sac fly to level the game at two. Keller would come back to finish both the fifth and six without allowing another run. He would go six innings, allowing two runs on four hits and one walk while striking out five.
Joe would once again reach base and get to second on a wild pitch by Law. With two outs, Mathias hit a grounder to short, but it was bobbled by Barrero. Mathias would reach first safely, and Joe would score as he was off with contact and took advantage of the sloppy fielding. Hedges would single later in the inning, but Mathias would be thrown out at the plate by TJ Friedl.
Robert Stephenson tossed a scoreless seventh inning before the Pirates added a massive insurance run thanks to a Santana RBI double. Holderman got the eighth again and bounced back after allowing two runs the night before. Bednar entered to attempt the save in the ninth, and he easily converted with another 1-2-3 innings. The Pirates had won five straight.
Game 22: Pittsburgh 2, Cincinnati 1
It was Rich Hill’s turn once again in game three of the series as the Pirates looked to clinch another series victory. The Reds would counter Hill with Luis Cessa. The Bucs were once again out in front early as Hayes led off the first with a triple. Reynolds would do a job, collecting the sacrifice fly and putting the Pirates up 1-0. Hill would work around some staggered base runners in the following innings but kept the Reds off the board for the time being.
Pittsburgh added to its lead in the fourth, as Santana and Suwinski mashed back-to-back doubles to put the Bucs up 2-0. Cincinnati answered back in the fifth as India and Fairchild both singled. India would score on the Fairchild single due to an error by Bae in center field. Yohan Ramirez replaced Hill in the sixth and would toss two scoreless frames, allowing three base runners. Underwood entered in the eighth inning and set Cincinnati down in order twice, recording six straight outs and the save. Pittsburgh had won six straight and another series.
Game 23: Pittsburgh 2, Cincinnati 0
Vince Velasquez would attempt to power the Pirates to its second straight sweep and seventh straight win as Hunter Greene looked to stop Cincy’s skid. After a 1-2-3 first inning from Velasquez, Hayes led off with yet another extra-base hit. Marcano singled to put runners on the corner before McCutchen hit into a double play. Fortunately for the Pirates, Hayes scored on the twin kill, giving the Bucs another early 1-0 lead.
Both arms would settle in and post very impressive lines. Greene went six innings, allowing one run on four hits and two walks while striking out six Pirates. Even with the impressive performance of the young Reds starter, the veteran Velasquez out dueled him. Velasquez went seven shutout innings, registering 10 strikeouts while only allowing two hits and two walks.
Holderman replaced Velasquez and worked around a one-out double as he got through another scoreless eighth inning. The Pirates added a big insurance run in the bottom of the inning as Santana singled with two outs. Suwinski came through yet again with the RBI double to put the Bucs up 2-0. Bednar entered for the save and converted for his National League leading eighth save of the season as the Pirates swept its second-straight series and won its seventh-straight game.
Weekly Awards (last 7 days)
Hitter of the Week: Jack Suwinski – 6/17 (.353 AVG), 4 HR, 8 RBI, 7 BB, 2 2B, 5R
Co-Starter of the Week: Vince Velasquez – 2 GS, 13.0 IP, 3 ER, 17 K, 7 H, 5 BB, 2 W, 2 QS
Co-Starter of the Week: Roansy Contreras – 1 GS, 6.2 IP, 1 ER, 8 K, 5 H, 2 BB, W, QS
Reliever of the Week: David Bednar – 4 G, 4 SV, 4.0 IP, 0 ER, 5 K, 2 H, 0 BB
vs Los Angeles Dodgers (12-11) – April 25-27
at Washington Nationals (7-14) – April 28-30