Judging by some of the social media posts, Oneil Cruz’ major league debut generated a lot of actual excitement among the Pirates’ neglected fan base. In a game that hopefully will be more of a model for the future than anything else we’ve seen this year, the Pirates came back from a 5-0 deficit and beat the Reds, 8-6.
It wasn’t success after success — he struck out twice with the bases loaded — but Cruz had two singles in five ABs, picking up his first major league hit, RBI and run. Remarkably, the second hit registered an exit velocity of 118.2 mph, making it the highest EV recorded for a Pirate hitter in the Statcast era. So maybe Cruz is no ordinary prospect.
The early going wasn’t so good. Max Kranick lasted four innings, allowing four runs. The first was unearned, set up by an outfield error on Yoshi Tsutsugo in the first inning. Kranick gave up another run in the third on two singles, with a sacrifice in between, then two more in the fourth on a bomb by Eugenio Suarez. Enyel De Los Santos came on for the fifth and coughed up a dinger to Nick Castellanos.
So after four and a half, the Pirates were down 5-0. Tyler Mahle was just buzzing through their lineup like we’ve seen countless times this year.
Until the bottom of the fifth. Ben Gamel and Jacob Stallings both singled, then Cruz singled to drive in the Pirates’ first run. Wilmer Difo, batting for De Los Santos, tripled for two more. Cole Tucker beat out an infield hit to drive in Difo, then after a single by Bryan Reynolds, Michael Chavis doubled to score two, putting the Pirates ahead, 6-5.
Cincinnati tied the score in the sixth when Sam Howard and Nick Mears each gave up a double, but the Pirates got it back in the bottom half. Tsutsugo got hit by a pitch with two outs and scored on a triple by Bryan Reynolds. That was Reynolds 90th RBI of the year. He finished 4-for-5, lifting his average to .303.
The Pirates added an insurance run in the seventh when Stallings, Cruz and Hoy Park singled with two outs to load the bases, and Tucker walked to force in a run. Stallings and Chavis each finished with two hits, and Gamel with three.
Meanwhile, Shelby Miller, Chasen Shreve and Chris Stratton each put up a scoreless inning. Stratton got his eighth save.
Aaaand . . . the Pirates have a chance to sweep the series tomorrow.