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Gregory Polanco Leads the Charge as the Battlin’ Bucs Beat St. Louis 11-7

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On what first seemed like a bleak night for the Pirates, magic was in the air at PNC Park as the Bucs came back from down six runs to defeat the St. Louis Cardinals.

Capped off by Gregory Polanco, the Pirates’ bats struck, struck again and struck a few more times as Pittsburgh came back to beat St. Louis 11-7 on Thursday night.

The eight-run seventh inning consisted of the first eight Pirates batters reaching, doing a little bit of everything.

Ke’Bryan Hayes opened the inning with a double in his first at-bat of the night, extending his hitting streak to six games including extra-base hits in three straight. After a Ben Gamel walk and a Michael Chavis single, his third of four hits on the night, Bryan Reynolds hit a two-RBI single, trimming the Cardinals lead to 7-5.

Colin Moran then singled, before Wilmer Difo tied the game with a base hit to center.

The next batter, Gregory Polanco, who has been arguably the most newsworthy man in the city the last week or so, doubled deep to left center field, plating a pair and giving the Pirates a 9-7 lead.

Yoshi Tsutsugo then hit a pinch-hit home run to right-center, his fourth in just 21 at-bats with the Pirates, increasing the lead to 11-7.

Chris Stratton struck out the side in order in the eighth, before David Bednar finished it off in the ninth.

The Pirates scored their first run in the second, when Kevin Newman bounced out plating Difo.

Colin Moran hit a two-run home run to right the next inning, his seventh of the year and third vs. the Cardinals in the last two weeks. Moran picked up four hits total on the night.

The Pirates recorded 17 hits in all, and Moran, Chavis, Polanco and Difo all had three or more.

For the first time in his career, Mitch Keller struggled against the Cardinals. In three previous career starts vs. St Louis, Keller gave up just one run in 16 innings, including five scoreless against them less than a week ago.

Thursday night, however, the Cardinals tagged him, as they scored multiple runs in each of the first three innings off of Keller.

In the first, Nolan Arenado blasted a two-run homer off the foul pole on a pitch in off the plate, giving St. Louis an early 2-0 lead before the Bucs even had a chance to grab the bats.

Tommy Edman added to the Cardinals lead the next inning with a two-out, two-RBI double to right that came with a full count. The next batter, Paul Goldschmidt, singled home Edman, making it 5-0.

In the third inning, Edmundo Sosa crushed an opposite field two-run blast that came off the bat just shy of 107 mph.

Keller was able to settle down and hold St. Louis scoreless through the next two innings, and recorded an out in the sixth before being lifted after plunking Sosa with a pitch.

The Pirates are 5-2 over their last seven.

Game two of this four-game set is Friday night. A couple left-handers will square off as Dillon Peters (0-1, 1.86) goes for the Pirates and J.A. Happ (7-6, 5.88 ERA) for the Cardinals.

Stat of the Game

  • Before going 7 for 14 in Thursday night’s game, the Pirates are just 2 for 28 (.071) with runners in scoring position in their last games. Entering play, the Pirates ranked dead last in OPS (.613) with RISP by a wide margin – Baltimore is second-to-last with a .647 OPS. They also ranked last in average in the same category at just .2019 entering play, for comparison the Yankees are second to last (.230). For a team that struggles to hit the long ball, that is a big problem.

Takeaways

  • New Kids on the Block: Since joining the Pirates, Tsutsugo and Chavis have been impactful in their brief tenures with the team. Tsutsugo is batting .333 (7 for 21) with four homers, a pair of doubles and six RBIs. Tsutsugo’s claim to fame in his career in Japan was always his power, and the power he’s shown in Pittsburgh has been welcomed by the Pirates. After his four-hit performance Thursday night, Chavis has six hits in three of his first four games with the Bucs, and has shown power seen by a double and a 429-foot homerun on Tuesday night. He also delivered an RBI single in Wednesday’s game and he’s expected to get plenty of looks the rest of the season.  
  • Number 100!: Moran’s two-run shot gave the Pirates their 100th home run of the season, becoming the last team in the Major Leagues to hit triple digits. The Diamondbacks have the second-fewest in the league, entering play with 114 on the year. The Pirates have finished in the bottom-10 in team homers every year since 2014 when they had the sixth-most (156).
  • Rule 5 is Rolling: In his last four appearances dating back to Aug. 6, Luis Oviedo has put together an impressive stretch of pitching. In total, he’s worked five innings without giving up a run. He’s allowed just two base hits, walked one and picked up six strikeouts. Oviedo’s numbers in 2021 as a whole have not looked great, pitching to a 9.49 ERA/5.76 FIP, which was somewhat expected for the 22-year old. Coming into the season, he never pitched above A-ball, but that Pirates have kept him on the roster in hopes of keeping him with the organization long-term. Next season, Oviedo is allowed to pitch in the minor leagues, maybe getting stretched out as a starter as he had done for most of his career before joining the Pirates.
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