Josh Bell broke out of his 2019 early frost with three multi-hit games against the Cincinnati Reds this past weekend. Prior to the weekend, he had two hits in 14 plate appearances. Five of the seven hits were for extra bases as he doubled three times and homered twice.
The Pittsburgh Pirates finished the week 4-2, capped by a four-game sweep of their National League Central Division rival, the Cincinnati Reds. It was the first time the Pirates have swept the Reds in a four-game series since 1969.
— Pirates (@Pirates) April 7, 2019
Adding in the first three games of the year, the Pirates sit at 5-3 overall, good for second place in the NL Central. The Milwaukee Brewers are a-top the division with a record of 8-2, two games ahead of Pittsburgh. The St. Louis Cardinals are 4-5, one and a half games back of Pittsburgh. The Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds lay claim to the final two spots in the division with records of 2-7 and 1-8, respectively.
Overall Week 2 Grade – B+
To start the week, the offense was lethargic and the bullpen allowed the Cardinals to rally from three-run deficits in both games of the series. St. Louis beat the Pirates in back-to-back one-run games.
Other news to start the week was that Gold Glove left fielder Corey Dickerson was placed on the IL with shoulder tightness. This injury means that the Pirates are missing three of their outfielders for the foreseeable future. Gregory Polanco had shoulder surgery last year and is still rehabbing, and his replacement, Lonnie Chisenhall, broke his right index finger in the final game of spring training. He is expected to be back the same time as Polanco.
To counter these injuries, the Pirates called up outfield prospect Jason Martin, acquired during the Gerrit Cole trade last off-season. Martin made his debut on Saturday, April 6, and led off. He knocked a single to center field in his first MLB at-bat. He would play both of the final two games of the series, batting 3-for-6 while knocking in a run and scoring one as well.
Cincinnati Series: Games 1 through 3
The Pirates looked much more like the team we thought they could be this past weekend. The pitching was lights out on Thursday and Friday, allowing no runs and giving up just nine hits in total. Their starting rotation was statistically the best in baseball, as the only starter out of the five to allow runs was Jameson Taillon.
Great pitching does not always stick, especially for the Pirates, so eventually, the bats were going to have to get something going. After being shut out the first two games of the series, the Cincinnati bats finally broke through on Saturday. In a back and forth game, the Pirates won a thriller in the bottom of the 10th inning as Kevin Newman doubled to deep left-center and Francisco Cervelli was able to score from first base. It was Newman’s first career walk-off. If that excitement was not enough for the Steel City, Sunday got even crazier.
Game 4: Sunday Fight-day
Chris Archer allowed two home runs in the first three innings, including this mammoth shot into the river by Derek Dietrich:
Derek Dietrich sends a souvenir into the river. 😳 pic.twitter.com/BcZ4EJfreJ
— Cincinnati Reds (@Reds) April 7, 2019
As you can see, Dietrich stood and admired the ball. The Pirates pitcher and catcher did not seem too fond of the gesture. In Dietrich’s next at-bat, Archer decided to take matters into his own hands. The rest is depicted below:
Benches clear in Pittsburgh during Reds – Pirates game. pic.twitter.com/Dm6SSnvUNP
— MLB (@MLB) April 7, 2019
Once the dust settled, four players and a coach were thrown from the game. Pirates relievers Felipe Vazquez and Keone Kela were both ejected because they rushed the field out of uniform. For the Reds, skipper David Bell was thrown from the game during the scuffle, as his rush to the umpire sparked the ensuing “disagreement.” Yasiel Puig was ejected after he made a second charge at Archer. Amir Garret was also tossed for trying to stir up more violence in the scuffle.
The Pirates offense responded positively to the fight, much like an offense in hockey does after their goon knocks a guy to the ice. Josh Bell was the second Pittsburgh batter after the scuffle. He hit one of the longest home runs of the season, as it sailed over the batter’s eye to tie the game at three runs apiece. Statcast projected the homer at 474 feet, the fourth-longest home run ever hit at PNC Park.
— Pirates (@Pirates) April 7, 2019
Melky Cabrera then hit a two-out double and scored on an RBI single from Martin. Pittsburgh went on to win the game 7-5 and completed the four-game sweep.
The Pirates head to Chicago for their fourth straight NL Central series to start the season. Taking the momentum of the past weekend could bode well for Pittsburgh, as the Cubs have been slumping. However, the Pirates should not get ahead of themselves. The Pirates have a 5-3 record. All five of those wins are against the 1-8 Reds.
So yes, Pittsburgh is looking very good as the pitching is top-notch and the offense is looking good. But the Pirates are missing two every-day starting outfielders. Also, Kyle Crick, the set-up pitcher, was just moved to the IL as well. The Chicago series will mean a lot going forward as the injured Buccos try to keep the train rolling.
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