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Pirates Takeaways: Cruz’s Missile, Falter Has Rare Struggle, Explanation on Controversial Call

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Oneil Cruz, Pittsburgh Pirates

PITTSBURGH — It’s not unusual to see Oneil Cruz demolish a baseball, but his home run for the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Los Angeles Dodgers was something to behold, even by his standards.

Cruz hit a career-long 462-foot home run off of Dodgers reliever Evan Phillips in the eighth inning of the Pirates’ 11-7 loss. The ball left Cruz’s bat at 117.7 mph.

“It felt good,” Cruz said through coach and interpreter Stephen Morales. “Been trying to hit the ball hard like I always do and I was able to connect on that ball.”

Cruz’s violent swing becomes even more vicious when he’s playing frustrated. For a couple reasons, the Pirates’ shortstop might have been a little extra ticked off in the series finale against the Dodgers.

Entering play, Cruz was hitting .151 with a .507 OPS over his last 13 games. He hadn’t hit a home run since May 12 against the Cubs.

On top of the poor play of late, Cruz and the Pirates were victims of home plate umpire Dan Merzel’s wide strike zone. To be fair, Merzel missed calls against the Dodgers too, but the Pirates certainly took notice of a few calls not going their way.

“The whole team was kinda mad because of the strike zone.” he said. “Today we were struggling (to get) calls here and there, but it’s just a reaction for me to try and get something going for the team.”

Cruz’s thunderous home run just so happened to have come against his original team. The Dodgers signed Cruz as an amateur free agent before trading him to the Pirates for Tony Waston in 2017.

When Cruz stepped onto the field on Thursday night, he did so wearing a unique set of cleats. One was black and gold for the Pirates, the other was blue and white for the Dodgers.

“I feel proud, obviously, that I was a Dodger once.,” he said. “I appreciate them a lot because they were the first team that gave me the opportunity to become a professional baseball player and play the game I love.”

Falter Has Rare Poor Start

Bailey Falter’s development has been one of the Pirates’ biggest storylines this season.

The left-hander has emerged as a formidable presence in the Bucs’ starting rotation, a unit that has been a strength this season.

It’s been rare to see Falter have subpar showings this season, but the Dodgers struck early against him in Thursday’s loss.

Three batters into the game, the Dodgers had a 3-0 lead on Freddie Freeman’s home run following back-to-back singles to leadoff the first. Los Angeles later added a fourth run in the opening frame.

The Dodgers’ lineup is impressive. The top three of the lineup of Freeman, Mookie Betts and Shohei Ohtani are all perennial All-Stars and seemingly in the MVP discussion at the end of every season.

“It’s a great lineup. It’s a good team. They win a lot of games,” he said. “I just need to be a little bit better. The position players did their job really well tonight, I just need to do mine.”

After the rough first inning, Falter was able to settle in and held the Dodgers scoreless through the next three innings. After Teoscar Hernández led off the top of the fifth with a home run, Falter’s night ended.

Still, Falter did a pretty good job of bouncing back when things could have easily snowballed.

“I’ve had some rough first innings in the past,” Falter said. “I just gotta find a way to limit that damage and get these guys back in there as soon as possible.”

Wait, What?

There was a controversy in the top of the first inning in Ohtani’s first at-bat.

With Betts on first, Ohtani hit one to right fielder Edward Olivares, who dove at the ball in front of him for what was ruled a catch.

However, the Dodgers challenged the play and the call was overturned when it could be seen that Olivares caught the ball on a short-hop. After the review, Betts was awarded second base, much to the dismay and confusion of the Pirates.

Manager Derek Shelton explained the ruling during his postgame press conference.

“The explanation is once it goes to replay it’s their call. My question, I thought Mookie was moving back before the call was made and replay would adjust the runners and they didn’t see it that way.”

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Tim Crytzer

Rule and umpires Suck!

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