PITTSBURGH — Michael Harris II provided all the offense the Atlanta Braves needed in their 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park on Monday night.
After a leadoff single by Vaugh Grissom in the fifth, Harris followed by slugging a hanging curveball from Roansy Contreras over the left-field fence to put the Braves up 2-0.
Harris was on base in all three of his plate appearances, as the rookie also drew a pair of walks.
After a 62-minute rain delay prior to first pitch, Ronald Acuña Jr. doubled off Contreras to begin the ballgame. That was the only hit the Braves managed against the Pirates’ right-hander in the first four innings.
At one point, Contreras retired seven Atlanta hitters in a row until Grissom’s single to begin the fifth inning.
For the first time in his career, Contreras completed seven innings. He allowed two runs on four hits, three walks and picked up five strikeouts. Contreras was efficient, with 60 of his 89 pitches going for strikes.
“Being able to face such a good caliber team like the Braves and to be able to get the results I’ve been working so diligently for, it means everything for me,” Contreras said after the game through interpreter Mike Gonzalez.
Contreras became the first Pirates’ rookie to complete seven innings since Nick Kingham in 2018.
Oneil Cruz hit his 10th home run of the season with a fifth-inning solo shot to right. It was the first homer for Cruz since Aug. 6 in Baltimore.
Oneil Cruz, man. pic.twitter.com/josecYCI1D
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) August 23, 2022
“This is definitely something that shows results of the hard work I’m putting in,” Cruz said after the game. “Going into the second at-bat, I just felt equipped and ready.”
The blast was the 42nd home run hit by a Pittsburgh Pirates rookie this season, setting a franchise record.
That was the lone tally the Bucs managed off Braves starter Jake Odorizzi. The veteran tossed six innings of four-hit ball and didn’t walk a batter. He punched out seven.
Odorizzi had struggled in his three starts with Atlanta prior to this one. He posted a 5.93 ERA and allowed an opponent OPS of 1.033 entering play since coming over from the Astros at the Aug. 2 trade deadline.
The Pirates had the tying run on second base with one out in the eighth, but Tucupita Marcano and Kevin Newman failed to drive him in.
Rodolfo Castro had a hit for a fourth game in a row and picked stayed hot at the plate and extended his hitting streak to four-games. Castro also picked up his fourth stolen base of the season.
The Pittsburgh Pirates will try and bounce back on Tuesday night. JT Brubaker (3-10, 4.19 ERA) will make his first start since tossing seven-scoreless innings against the Red Sox last week. All-Star lefty Max Fried (11-4, 2.60 ERA) will get the ball for Atlanta at 7:05.
Contreras In Control
Monday’s start against the Braves will go down as one of the best of Contreras’ brief major league career. Not only did the rookie set a career-high with seven innings pitched, but navigated his way through a potent Atlanta lineup.
“It was really good, it was really effective. He was extremely efficient. I thought [Contreras] threw the ball really well against, we’re talking an elite lineup there,” manager Derek Shelton said.
Contreras didn’t let the two-run homer faze him, kept his composure and, more importantly, kept his team in the game.
Cruz, Contreras’ lockermate, was happy to see his teammate pitch so well. When asked how he felt about the performance after the game, Cruz said, “Joyful. He’s the best.”
Sigh Of Relief
Cruz has been stuck in a rut at the plate for a while now. In his last 13 games entering play Monday, Cruz had slumped to a .128/.212/.213 slash line with 24 strikeouts in 52 plate appearances.
His homer off of Odorizzi came on a cutter on the inside corner. Cruz kept his hands inside the ball and used his raw power to deposit the pitch into the right-field seats.
“My mindset is always to just get the barrel out quick, and that certain pitch I was able to keep my hands in and I was able to connect on the ball well,” said Cruz.
Cruz struck out twice, but had a pretty good battle against left-handed reliever A.J. Minter in the seventh.
Besting The Braves
After a first-inning single, Bryan Reynolds has now collected 11 hits in five games against the Braves this season. Entering play, Reynolds had picked up at least two hits in each of his first four contests against Atlanta this year, including a pair of homers.
For his career, Reynolds owns a .380 batting average against the Braves (27 for 71).