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Pirates Preview: Velasquez Aims to Earn First Series Win of the Year

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Pittsburgh Pirates- Vince Velasquez

The first series of the season for the Pittsburgh Pirates(1-1)  comes down to a game three rubber match against the Cincinnati Reds (1-1).

The Pirates fell 6-2 Saturday evening against the Cardinals, despite Rich Hill putting forth a valiant effort through five innings.

Chase De Jong found himself in the soup a bit, and the Reds made him pay with a three-run homer in the sixth inning by pinch-hitter Jake Frayley.

First pitch at Great American Ball Park is scheduled for 1:40 p.m. You can watch all the action on AT&T Sportsnet, or listen to it on 93.7 The Fan.

Weather

At first pitch, no rain is expected, and for once, it will be a sunny day. Temperatures will range from 49-56 degrees, and a 4-8 mph wind will be blowing south.

Starters

The Pirates will send out Vince Velasquez, who makes his regular season debut

Velasquez has had a rough time in his eight year career against the Reds.

In five games (three starts), Velasquez is 0-1 with a 6.08 ERA. Reds’ hitters have also amassed a .309/.424/.491 slash line and an OPS of .915.

In three out of his five games against Cincinnati, Velasquez has pitched at Great American Ball Park, and one glaring stat that sticks out is the walk numbers.

In 11 innings pitched, Velasquez has surrendered 10 walks, while striking out 12.

The Reds will send fellow their third straight youngster in RHP Graham Ashcraft

In one start against the Pirates, Ashcraft is 0-0 with a 4.05 ERA.

In his 105 innings pitched in 2022, Ashcraft put forth very encouraging numbers for the Reds.

Ashcraft limited hard contact in ’22, and as a result, he ranked in the 83rd percentile in hard hit %, the 88th percentile in barrel rate, and ranked above average in hard hit% around the 63rd percentile.

Ashcraft does offer four pitches but will stick mainly with his cutter (50.7% usage in ’22), slider (27.1% usage in ’22), and sinker (21.5% usage in ’22).

Ashcraft’s cutter tops out around 97 mph, and his slider has above league average movement with 40 inches of verticle break (4.4 above league average) and 11 inches of horizontal break (6.3 above average).

Interesting Batting Match Ups

There weren’t a ton of interesting pitching matchups other than Wil Myers going 0-6 with four Ks against Velasquez.

Tidbits

  • With his strikeout against T.J. Friedl in the fifth inning on Saturday, Hill recorded his 1,300th strikeout. He became just the 94th left-handed pitcher to reach said milestone.
  • Oneil Cruz notched another RBI on Saturday and became the first Pirates player to record an RBI in the first two games and the 13th since 2000 since Cory Dickerson did it in 2019.
  • Of all the current lefties that are still active in the major leagues, Hill ranks seventh in terms of strikeouts. The six other players include Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, Madison Bumgarner, Jose Quintana, Robbie Ray, and Patrick Corbin.
  • The Pirates have yet to win their opening series since Derek Shelton took over in Nov. 2019.

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