There really isn’t much more to say about this team. The Pirates ended April with series wins at home against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals. Pittsburgh’s 20 April wins is a new franchise record, and this team just keeps clicking on all cylinders. The Bucs have now won six of nine series this season including four straight series wins and three series sweeps. Here is what the Pirates did this week.
Game 24: Pittsburgh 7, Los Angeles 8
The Pirates entered its first major test of the season against the powerhouse that is the LA Dodgers. Johan Oviedo got the start for the Bucs and found some misfortune early. A Freddie Freeman walk and Jason Heyward reaching on a catcher’s interference led to Miguel Vargas’ two-RBI bloop double to put LA up in the first. Pittsburgh would punch right back as usual as Tucupita Marcano singled and stole second with one out in the bottom of the inning. Carlos Santana would single him in to cut the LA lead to 2-1.
Oviedo would settle into the ballgame and the Pirate bats would continue to attack. Ji Hwan Bae would single and steal before Austin Hedges would be hit by a pitch. Ke’Bryan Hayes would then double both runners in, giving the Pirates a 3-2 lead. Pittsburgh would then add on in the fourth as Bae singled and stole second once again. Hedges would drive in Bae with an RBI single. Later in the inning, Andrew McCutchen would line a three-run homer over the Clemente Wall in right field to put the Bucs up 7-2. Noah Syndergaard would leave the game after four innings, allowing seven runs.
It would now be LA’s turn to punch back as Freeman would smack an RBI single off Oviedo to cut the lead to 7-3. The Dodger bats would keep thumping as Michael Busch singled home James Outman in the sixth. Oviedo would be lifted following a Chris Taylor single to load the bases. Robert Stephenson entered the game and immediately allowed a sacrifice fly to Austin Barnes. The Pirate lead was now only two.
The next batter would be Mookie Betts who would send a high drive to left. Jack Suwinski would jump and rob Betts of a go-ahead, three-rum home run to end the sixth inning. Oviedo would finish with 5.1 innings pitched allowing four earned runs (five total) on six hits while striking out four Dodgers. The offense would settle down as the bullpens took over including a scoreless inning from Jose Hernandez.
Disaster would strike for the Pirates in the eighth inning as Colin Holderman put two on with only one out. Taylor would then strike with a go-ahead, three-run homer to left which gave the Dodgers an 8-7 lead. The Bucs would fight back in the bottom of the inning as Andrew McCutchen would step to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs. McCutchen would offer at what would have been ball four and popped out to end the threat. Shelby Miller would close the game out in the ninth as the Dodgers took game one of the series.
Game 25: Pittsburgh 8, Los Angeles 1
Roansy Contreras would get the ball for the Pirates in the middle game of the series as Tony Gonsolin would make his first start of the season of LA. The start of the game would belong to the pitching and defense as both teams went down quietly through the first 3.5 innings. The bottom of the fourth would see the game’s first real threat as the Pirates put two on with one out. That would be all for Gonsolin, who was on a strict pitch count in his return start, and Phil Bickford would take over. Bickford would escape the jam and the game would enter the fifth scoreless.
Contreras would get the Dodgers to go down in four hitters as he completed the fifth without allowing a base hit. Pittsburgh would finally break the ice in the bottom of the inning. Bae led off with a single and a steal of second base before Jason Delay bunted him to third. Hayes would draw a walk to put runners at the corners as freshly extended Bryan Reynolds would single home Bae, giving the Bucs a 1-0 lead. McCutchen would follow with an RBI single of his own and the Pirates headed to the sixth leading 2-0.
Contreras’ no-hit bid would be ended by an Austin Wynns leadoff single. After striking out Betts, Freeman would single to put runners on first and second. Contreras would get Heyward and Outman to fly out to end the inning and came off the mound fired up. Pittsburgh added another in the bottom of the sixth as Rodolfo Castro was brought home after his leadoff double thanks to a Delay RBI single.
Robert Stephenson would toss a scoreless seventh which allowed the Bucs to break it open in the next half inning. First, Castro picked up a two-RBI single to make it 5-0. Then, Bae smacked an RBI infield single to make it 6-0. Finally, Delay added a two-RBI double to balloon the lead to eight. Dauri Moreta would finish the game out with his only blemish being a mammoth solo homer by Freeman. The Pirates evened the series and had forced a Thursday afternoon rubber match.
Game 26: Pittsburgh 6, Los Angeles 2
The series rubber match would be a battle of aces as Mitch Keller got the ball against Julio Urias, the 2022 NL ERA leader. It would be the Dodgers who would strike first as it did in game one. Keller would walk Betts and allow a single to Heyward before grabbing two outs. Heyward would swipe second base to put two runners in scoring position right before David Peralta singled up the middle to put LA up 2-0.
Just as the side has all season, the Pirates would punch right back. Tucupita Marcano would single and advance to third on a throwing error. Reynolds would then proceed to immediately drive him in. McCutchen singled and then the pair would pull off a double steal. Both would end up scoring as Castro ripped a sacrifice fly and Suwinski bagged an RBI single. The Bucs led 3-2 after one inning.
Both starters would the settle in and toss scoreless baseball for the next 4.5 innings. Keller would throw up five straight zeros and completed six solid innings allowing two runs on five this while walking one and striking out 10 Dodgers. Urias would not be as fortunate as Keller. McCutchen would draw a one-out walk in front of Connor Joe who lined a 107.5 mph, 399-foot home run to left to give the Pirates a 5-2 lead. Castro would then get his licks in as the pair went back-to-back as Rodolfo hit one out over the notch in left center.
The Pittsburgh bullpen would lock down the four-run lead as Duane Underwood Jr., Jose Hernandez and David Bednar would slam the door. The Pirates would win the series and end its homestand with a 6-1 record.
Game 27: Pittsburgh 6, Washington 3
The Bucs would take the show on the road to Washington, D.C. for a three-game set against the lowly Nationals. Game one of the series would be postponed Friday night due to rain causing the teams to play a split doubleheader Saturday. Rich Hill got the ball in game one against Patrick Corbin. Pittsburgh would strike first in the second inning as Connor Joe led off with a walk and Castro singled to put two runners on. Newly recalled Miguel Andujar would grab his first MLB hit and RBI of the season, putting the Pirates up 1-0.
Hill would run into trouble for the first time in the third inning as the Nats would slash three straight singles to start the frame and load the bases. Hill would wiggle out of the jam thanks to Jeimer Candelario lining into a double play and Joey Meneses grounding out the third. Pittsburgh would extend its lead in the fourth as Joe smacked his fourth homer of the season making it 2-0.
Washington would strike back in the fourth as the Nats put the first two runners on base. Hill would come back to get the next two hitters before allowing a game-tying double to Riley Adams. Pittsburgh would threaten to start the sixth inning as McCutchen led off with a double. Corbin would get Joe to ground out and was then replaced by Carl Edwards Jr. Castro would also ground out before Andujar broke the tie with a two-run shot to left center field.
The Nationals would not go away, though, as Luis Garcia tripled to lead off the bottom of the innings and Lane Thomas collected the RBI groundout. Hill would get CJ Abrams to pop out to start the seventh inning and was then replaced by Stephenson. Hill’s final line would read 6.1 innings pitched, three runs (two earned), eight hits, no walks and five strikeouts.
Pittsburgh would add a pair of insurance runs in the eighth inning as Hedges drew a bases-loaded walk and Reynolds hit a sacrifice fly to left. Colin Holderman and David Bednar would make quick and easy work of the Nationals in the final two innings and the Bucs took game one.
Game 28: Pittsburgh 16, Washington 1
Vince Velasquez was tasked with the nightcap of the doubleheader against former Pirate Chad Kuhl. Pittsburgh would continue to do what it does best scoring early and often. Hayes led off game two with a double which was followed by a Reynolds walk. McCutchen would move Hayes to third with a sac fly before Santana would push Hayes across with a sac fly of his own.
The Bucs would continue to play smallball for the time being as Joe walked and Castro signed to start the second. Marcano laid down a sacrifice bunt before Delay extended the Pittsburgh lead with a sac fly. Velasquez would work around abases-loaded jam in the second without allowing a run. This would be the only real pain point of his outing as the veteran went six scoreless innings only allowing five hits while striking out the same. Velasquez’s scoreless inning streak has now reached 18 consecutive.
The Pirates continued to mash as Reynolds, Santana and Suwinski would all double, pushing the lead to four. The Bucs added four more int eh fourth as Reynolds singled home Marcano and Delay. McCutchen collected an RBI via another sacrifice fly and Santana singled home Reynolds. The exclamation point would be added in the top of the sixth as Suwinski belted his sixth homer of the season. This one happened to a 444-foot, 114-mph grand slam to put the Pirates up 12-0.
The real magic of the night would happen in the seventh inning as Drew Maggi stepped to the plate with a runner on third base. Maggi would slash his first career major-league hit and RBI into center field, scoring Delay, and forever putting his name into the MLB history books. Maggi would collect another double in the ninth and Andujar would hit a three-run homer to push the score to 16-0. Dominic Smith homered off Hernandez in the bottom of the inning and the game would go final at 16-1. Pittsburgh had swept the doubleheader, won the series and reached 20 wins.
Game 29: Pittsburgh 2, Washington 7
Oviedo would look to help the Pirates to yet another sweep as he faced Josiah Gray. Unfortunately for the Bucs and Oviedo, Washington showed up early and put up seven runs on the starter who only went 2.1 innings. The scoring started in the first with a two-RBI double from Candelario. The Nats would add three more the following inning thanks to a Garcia two-RBI single and Meneses RBI single.
Reynolds would het the Bucs on the board with a two-out RBI single that would score Bae. Back-to-back walks by Santana and Andujar would load the bases with two outs for Suwinski. Suwinski would lace a 104.6 mph grounder to first which Smith collected and flipped to the covering Gray for the final out. Smith would single to start the Nats half of the third and back-to-back doubles by Abrams and Victor Robles would make it 7-1 Washington and chase Oviedo.
The game would then settle down with the Pirate bullpen combining for 5.2 scoreless innings between Moreta, Hernandez, Yoan Ramirez and Underwood Jr. while Gray tossed six innings, allowing one run on three hits and three walks. Marcano would add an RBI single to get Pittsburgh to two runs in the ninth, but it would not be enough to overtake the six-run Washington lead. The Pirates have a tough six-game stretch beginning Tuesday in Tampa Bay before returning home for a weekend set with Toronto.
Hitter of the Week: Bryan Reynolds – 8/18 (.444 AVG), 4 R, 5 RBI, 4 2B,2 BB
Co-Starter of the Week: Vince Velasquez – 1 GS, 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 5 K, 5 H, 0 BB, W, QS
Co-Starter of the Week: Roansy Contreras – 1 GS, 6.0 IP, 0 ER, 5 K, 2 H, 2 BB, W, QS
Reliever of the Week: Jose Hernandez – 3 G, 3.2 IP, 0 ER, 5 K, 2 H, 0 BB
at Tampa Bay Rays (23-6) – May 2-4
vs Toronto Blue Jays (18-10) – May 5-7