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Rich Hill Shakes Off Rough First Inning But Pirates Fall 6-2 to Reds

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Pittsburgh Pirates, Rich Hill

After a rough first inning, Rich Hill was able to find his groove but the Pittsburgh Pirates were defeated by the Cincinnati Reds 6-2 on Saturday at Great American Ballpark.

Hill was greeted by Reds leadoff hitter Jonathan India who crushed a solo shot into the left-field bleachers. The homer was the eighth leadoff blast of India’s career, tying him with Zack Cozart for fourth-place on the Reds’ all-time list.

Later in the inning, former Pirates infielder Kevin Newman hit a two-run shot to left in his first at-bat with the Reds, putting them ahead 3-1. 

After the first inning, the Reds weren’t able to manage another hit against the left-hander through his final four frames. All-in-all, Hill allowed three runs on only three hits and a pair of walks. 

Hill struck out TJ Friedl in the fifth inning which was the 1,300th of the veteran left-hander’s career. He became the 94th left-hander in MLB history to reach the mark. Hill finished his outing with seven strikeouts. 

Chase De Jong came into the game in relief of Hill and surrendered a three-run homer to pinch-hitter Jake Fraley, putting the Reds ahead by a score of 6-2. 

Connor Joe, in his season debut, got the Pirates on the board in the top of the first inning with an RBI-single up the middle. Joe finished the game 1 for 3 with a walk.

Oneil Cruz recorded his third RBI of the season in the contest. He reached out on a Lodolo breaking ball and punched it through to center field. Cruz became the eighth Pirates’ player since 2000 and the first since Corey Dickerson in 2019 with at least one RBI in each of the Pirates’ first two games of the season.

Cruz and Santana both turned in multi-hit performances. Cruz went 2 for 4 with an RBI while Santana was 2 for 4 with a run.

After a base hit from Bryan Reynolds with two outs in the fourth inning, the final 16 Pirates’ batters were retired.

Rule 5 pick Jose Hernandez made his big league debut and tossed a scoreless eighth inning.

The Pirates (1-1) and Reds (1-1) will conclude their opening series on Sunday afternoon. Vince Velasquez (3-3, 4.78 ERA in 2022) will make his season and team debut. Graham Ashcraft (5-6, 4.88 ERA in 2022) will be the starter for the Reds.

Takeaways:

  • Generation Difference: Saturday’s pitching matchup of southpaws was quite different. When Hill was born on March 11, 1980 the Pittsburgh Pirates were reigning World Series champions. The now 43-year-old Hill has been a big leaguer for 19 seasons. He was originally drafted in 1999 but did not sign and was later drafted in 2002. For comparison, the 25-year-old Lodolo was born Feb. 11, 1998 and was drafted by the Reds in 2019, 20 years after Hill was drafted for the first time. 
  • Cruz’s Adjustments: Last season, Cruz would often look overmatched by left-handed pitchers. In this one, he singled in each of his first two at-bats against Lodolo. While neither were smoked like we are sometimes used to seeing from Cruz, he adjusted nicely to a tough left-hander, especially so in his second at-bat.
  • Bottoming Out: The Pirates’ 7-8-9 hitters of Rodolfo Castro, Ji Jwan Bae and Austin Hedges combined to go 0 for 10 with six strikeouts in the game. Canaan Smith-Njigba pinch hit for Castro in the ninth and went down swinging. Ji-Man Choi made his Pirates’ debut when he pinch hit for Hedges in the ninth and lined out.

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