The Pirates beat the heck out of the Reds on Friday night, scoring 14 runs on 15 hits as everyone in the lineup took turns wailing on Cincinnati’s subpar pitching staff.
On a cold and rainly night in Pittsburgh, all eight Pirates position players reached base against Reds starter Luis Castillo and the ragtag crew who relieved him. Josh Harrison, Gregory Polanco, and Starling Marte contributed a total of five hits and seven RBIs. It was a complete and dominant effort.
Manager Clint Hurdle said that he was very pleased with the outcome.
“You’re not going to get 14 runs every night, you’re not going to get 15 hits every night,” Hurdle said. “But overall the preparation is in a good place.”
With so much offense, it can be somewhat tough to pinpoint the most important parts of the game. But there was one man on Friday night whose performance stood out.
Looking at his tall frame, burly red beard, and gritted teeth, Colin Moran sort of resembles a folk hero. Almost like a baseball-swatting lumberjack whose chopping swing flows perfectly with the twang of a banjo or steel guitar.
His stoic demeanor has already been turned into a meme on Twitter:
The many faces of Colin Moran pic.twitter.com/XkspeZJgqQ— Pittsburgh Clothing Co. (@PGHClothingCo) April 6, 2018
So perhaps it’s unsurprising that among all of this offense, it was his bat that stood out.
Moran went 4-for-5 with a double and three RBIs. It was the first time in his career that Moran had more than two hits in a game. And, for the second time this week, he came up to the plate with the bases loaded and delivered.
While his hit on Friday was not quite as impressive as his first-inning grand slam on Opening Day, Moran’s two-run bases loaded single in the third inning gave the Bucs a lead that they would never relinquish.
Hurdle said that great teams “need guys like Moran” to help lengthen the lineup and provide power from unconventional power slots.
“It’s always nice to have some success early, to try and get more comfortable,” Moran said. “Sometimes you try a little to hard to get things going, but you’ve got to let the game come to you.”
Sound advice from a guy whose facial hair and past history as a top prospect sometimes obscures the fact that he’s still a 25-year old rookie.
Falling into place
It’s absurdly early in the season, for sure, but the early results had not been kind to Corey Dickerson. Pittsburgh’s new left fielder entered Friday’s game with an unimpressive .238/.238/.381 slash line.
But those numbers do not tell the whole story. Using the information provided by Fangraphs, Dickerson entered Friday’s game with one of the best line drive percentages in the league and added to it with three line drive hits.
That would bring Dickerson’s line drive percentage to an impressive 47.8 percent in his first six games as a Pirate. And in the past two games, the balls have started to find the empty places in the field.
Dickerson went 3-for-4 on Friday with two doubles, one day after he hit a double and a triple against the Reds.
Last year, the knock on Dickerson, who posted an All-Star caliber first half in 2017 before cratering in the second part of the season, was that his stats were driven by an unsustainable BABIP.
At least early on, Dickerson’s 2018 appears to be the opposite.
As Clint Hurdle bluntly said about Dickerson, “He can hit and he will hit.”
On Sunday, Trevor Williams walked five in six innings but didn’t surrender a hit. On Friday, he wasn’t quite as fortunate.
The Reds frequently squared up Williams’s fastball and peppered the righty for 10 hits. Williams only allowed two runs and ultimately left the game with his second win of the season, but it wasn’t the strongest outing for the Pirates’ most prolific podcaster.
While Hurdle said that the righty has had a hard time finding his rhythm this season, Williams posited a different solution: The weather.
“I’m waiting for the warmer weather,” Williams said. “This is the first time in my life that I’ve played in the cold.”
Williams, a product of Arizona State, was drafted by the Miami Marlins and made it to Double-A New Orleans before he was traded to Pittsburgh. Before debuting with the Pirates, the furthest north Williams played was Indianapolis.
“We’ve been able to have success with what we’ve been doing,” Williams said. “I think all of us are ready to get to Miami.”
An unconventional debut
Clay Holmes’s major league debut happened just as he dreamed it would: Mopping up in the eighth inning of a 14-3 blowout.
Because of the double header on Sunday, Holmes was brought up to the big leagues as a 26th man and remained on the roster when Joe Musgrove hit the disabled list. The righty had been sitting in the bullpen for five days and finally got an opportunity on Friday.
“It was a very cool experience, but I couldn’t have imagined being in that situation,” Holmes said. “Nothing about this whole process has been like what I had planned it out to be. But as in baseball and, I guess, in life most things don’t go according to plan.”
Alright, maybe jogging from the bullpen in freezing rain wasn’t exactly what Holmes had dreamt about as a child. But he did freeze former Pirate Phil Gosselin with a knee-high two-seamer to collect his first career strikeout.
Holmes struck out two over two innings of work. He allowed one run on two hits and two walks. He also recorded his first big league at-bat when he struck out against our old pal Jared Hughes.