A little over a week ago the Pirates ended a four game series with the Reds that began with a doubleheader, which made today feel like deja vu as Pittsburgh began another four game set with Cincinnati in a 2020 special; back to back seven inning contests. In the first of two a familiar face would be on the bump for both teams as the “29th Man”, Cody Ponce started his third doubleheader in a row, while Trevor Bauer took the mound for the Reds, with his last appearance against the Pirates coming in the second seven inning game on September 4th.
After his first start of 5.2 scoreless innings against St. Louis, Ponce had been roughed up by Cincinnati for three earned runs in 4 innings of work. Bauer on the other hand gave up only one earned run in his 6 innings versus Pittsburgh, but was awarded the loss due to some less than optimal defensive support in a 4-3 loss.
The outing for Ponce was more like the first start of his big league career, with his lone mistake coming in the bottom of the 4th: a line drive solo homer by Joe Votto to left centerfield field. For a while it looked like this would result in his second loss of the season as Bauer proceeded to strike out 11 Pirates batters through the first 6 innings, allowing just one hit, a single, to the first batter of the game, Erik Gonzalez. However, in the top of the 7th, Colin Moran, led off with a solo homer of his own. Next Josh Bell singled and Bryan Reynold struck out, Bauer’s 12th of the game, but Bauer still got into trouble as Kevin Newman singled. With two on and one out, he was lifted from the game in favor of Raisel Iglesias, who set down pinch hitter Gregory Polanco and John Ryan Murphy on strikes.
Heading into the bottom of the 7th with extra innings staring them straight in the eyes, the Reds first two hitters were retired by Sam Howard. Jose Garcia kept them alive, bringing pinch hitter Tyler Stephenson, the young rookie catcher with only 10 Major League at bats under his belt, to the plate. With a 1-0 count, Stephenson took a 85 mph hanging slider over the left centerfield wall for a 3-1 Reds victory in the first half of the doubleheader.
Before the second game even began the biggest storyline for Pirates Fans was the return of former top prospect, Mitch Keller, to the mound. Keller had been placed on the IL with left side discomfort on August 2nd after having only made 2 starts on the season. Now we all knew that this was probably going to be a shortened start, but at least it gave us something to look forward to; and through the first inning we weren’t too disappointed. After a leadoff walk, there was a strike’m out/throw’m out from Keller and Stallings, followed by a fly out. However, then things took a turn for the worse as another leadoff walk turned into a two run homer for Brian Goodwin. Joey Votto added a solo homer, his second of the doubleheader, in the bottom of the third and that was it for Keller’s return.
Through the first 4 and a half innings the Pirates did the best they could to keep in close, even grabbing the lead for a half a second in the top of the 4th on a Ke’Bryan Hayes 2 run home run. However, it would all be for not as the Reds scored 3 in the bottom frame, all on a home run from Mike Moustakas off of Nick Turley. Even the reliable Geoff Hartlieb struggled on the night; issuing four walks and hitting a batter, which resulted in two additional earned runs.
In the end the Pirates had to be glad the game was only 7 innings, as they fell 9-4 in a long day of disheartening baseball. But, they are right back at it tomorrow, and for the next 13 days in a row, as Joe Musgrove (0-4, 5.40 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound against Michael Lorenzen (1-1, 5.23 ERA) at 6:40 PM EST.
News and Notes:
- Cody Ponce pitches 4 innings and 63 pitches. He allowed only one run on one hit, while striking out three and walking two. This is the third time Ponce has filled in for a spot start; doing very well in two of them and serviceable in the other, which could be enough to earn him at the very least, an audition for the starting rotation in Spring Training 2021.
- Colin Moran hit his team leading 8th homer of the season.
- The Pirates were 0 for 6 with RISP. This is an easy way to lose close games.
- As a staff the Pirates, coming into today’s action, had given up 1.55 homers per 9 innings, tied for 5th highest in MLB. Two homers in game one equals 3 runs. 3 homers in the second equaled 6 additional runs.
- Josh Bell has 3 home runs in the last 5 games and a total of 7 on the year. He is also on an 8 game hitting streak.
- Although Keller gave up 2 homers in his first game back, it was nice to see the three strikeouts to go along with one of them in the bottom of the third.
- Ke’Bryan Hayes continues to hit for power, which is turning this doubter into a possible believer.