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Pirates sweep doubleheader on Keller’s strong start

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MLB: Game Two-Colorado Rockies at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After rain delayed the Pirates’ weekend plans Friday, the Rockies and Bucs played a doubleheader Saturday afternoon. The Pirates managed to take game one, 7-0, and looked to have more success in game two, with Mitch Keller on the mound.

Success has been fleeting in Pittsburgh since the Pirates’ quality start in April fell by the wayside throughout the month of May. Coming in to Saturday’s action, the Pirates had dropped nine of their last 10.

In a shortened, seven inning game, it was the Pirates who managed to find success first. It took no time at all for the first Pittsburgh batter, Adam Frazier, to turnaround an Austin Gomber fastball offering for a home run, his second of the season, giving the Pirates an early 1-0 advantage.

In the bottom of the third inning, former friend Elias Diaz committed an error on a Bryan Reynolds walk, which allowed Frazier to score his second run of the game, extending Pittsburgh’s lead to 2-0.

Newly re-instated from the injured list, Ka’ai Tom took a page from Frazier’s book, lacing a ball over the fence for his second home run of the year. That solo shot gave Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead.

More eyes were arguably on how Mitch Keller would pitch on the afternoon. He picked up five strikeouts through his first four innings, with his fastball looking strong and a nice complimentary slider to go with it. Keller has struggled to see sustained success at this level, and many curious eyes continue to look on and wonder whether or not he’ll be able to find it with the Pirates.

His night would end an inning later, going five innings, striking out six, walking two, and not allowing a run. With two innings to go, he put the Pirates in a strong position to earn the team’s 20th win of the season. Keller would go on to win his third game of the season.

The Pirates added a bit of insurance in the sixth inning off relief pitcher — and former Cincinnati Red —Robert Stephenson. After Jacob Stallings tripled on a ball that got by centerfielder Yonathan Daza after a strong effort to play the ball, Will Craig dropped a ball in front of rightfielder Charlie Blackmon, giving the Pirates a 4-0 lead.

With “Renegade” playing from PNC Park’s loudspeakers, David Bednar made entry into the ballgame sans save situation, looking to lock down a Pirates’ victory, and thus securing the doubleheader sweep.

But the inning didn’t progress as smoothly as Bednar would’ve liked, allowing back-to-back walks to begin the inning to Josh Fuentas and Yonathan Diaz, giving the Rockies a chance to claw back into the game. This development signaled the activation of closer Richard Rodriguez in the bullpen.

Bednar was able to strikeout the latter Diaz before turning his attention to Garrett Hampson, who short-hopped a ball to Kevin Newman, and ultimately beat out the second throw and got aboard via fielder’s choice. With two outs, Raimel Tapia represented the last opportunity for Colorado.

With Rodriguez still looming in the Pirates’ bullpen, Bednar continued to pound the zone with curveballs. Ultimately, Tapia flied out to center, and the Pirates were able to secure both games on Saturday by a combined score of 11-0.

The Pirates improve to 20-31 with the win, while the Rockies fall to 19-34. Pittsburgh will look for the sweep tomorrow afternoon, with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 pm.