Rookie Max Kranick’s big league debut Sunday could not have gone better – except for the weather.
Kranick tossed five perfect innings before the rains came and ended his start prematurely, but the Pittsburgh Pirates went on to claim a 7-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
Kranick was aided by third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes, who made what might be the defensive play of the year to help the Pirates take the four-game series 3-1.
Kranick, promoted from Triple-A Indianapolis, where he had made just four starts after being called up from Double-A Altoona, needed just 50 pitches – 36 of which went for strikes – to get through his five innings. He struck out three batters before the contest was halted by rain.
Following the 64-minute rain delay, the Pirates chose not to bring Kranick back for the sixth.
The young right-hander, who turns 23 next month, was aided by a potent Bucco attack that included a three-run first inning and back-to-back home runs in the fifth from Gregory Polanco and Ben Gamel.
The Pirates gave Kranick a nice early cushion as the first five batters reached safely before Cardinals starter Johan Oviedo finally got an out – a strikeout of Polanco.
Bryan Reynolds drove home the first run of the game when he delivered an RBI single that plated Adam Frazier and moved Hayes to third.
With Colin Moran at the plate, Reynolds took off for second and Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina couldn’t handle a pitch from Oviedo, allowing Hayes to score the Bucs’ second run.
After Polanco struck out and Kevin Newman flied out to shallow enter, Gamel drew a walk to force in the third run.
That allowed Kranick to come to the plate before he ever threw a pitch, and he grounded out to end the inning.
Hayes provided the defensive play of the game – and perhaps the season – in the second inning. With one out, Molina hit a one-hopper over third base that Hayes – who was playing off the line – fielded while running to his right into foul territory. Hayes never broke stride but somehow made the long looping throw to first base to just get the slow-footed Molina.
Kranick’s outing likely will earn him at least one more start, as Pirates general manager Ben Cherington said on his weekly radio show prior to the game that the club was leaning toward utilizing a six-man rotation at least up to the All-Star break in mid-July.
The Pirates’ bid for perfection ended in the bottom of the seventh. After Duane Underwood Jr. retired the side in order in the sixth, he yielded a leadoff double down the left field line to Dylan Carlson, and he later scored on Nolan Arenado’s sacrifice fly.
The Pirates pounded out 12 hits, with Frazier and Gamel each collecting three and Hayes and Reynolds adding two each. Frazier’s three hits brought his average up to .331, and he’s sporting an .874 OPS.
Frazier finished in second place behind Ozzie Albies in the first phase of All-Star fan voting, with Gavin Lux placing third. All three will move on to the second phase of voting, which begins at noon Monday and ends at 2 p.m. Thursday.
The Bucs will continue their road trip with a 5:10 p.m. matchup Monday against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field in Denver.