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Roansy Contreras Shines in Debut but Cubs Top Pirates 3-2

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Excitement was buzzing as news broke that Roansy Contreras would be making his Major League debut on Wednesday night against the Cubs. The Pirates’ No. 6 prospect worked three strong, scoreless innings, but Chicago defeated Pittsburgh 3-2 at PNC Park.

The right-hander, who was on a pitch limit as he works his way back from a forearm injury that sidelined him for nearly two months, looked good in his three innings of work. He allowed three hits, walked a batter and struck out four. the first strikeout of his career came against the Pittsburgh-native Ian Happ.

Contreras’ fastball was sitting in the 95-97 range and even climbed as high as 98. He didn’t use his changeup all that much but his breaking ball looked sharp and resulted in quite a few swings and misses. By starting in this one, Contreras became the youngest Pirate to start a game in 17 years.

Sam Howard relieved Contreras and pitched two innings out of the bullpen. The lone blemish on Howard was a Willson Contreras sacrifice fly that gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead.

Bryan Reynolds hit his second triple of the game in the sixth and this one drove in Yoshi Tsutsugo to tied the game. Reynolds became the first Pirate to hit two triples in the same game since Josh Harrison in 2014. The Pirates added on another thanks to a Kevin Newman sacrifice fly, giving the Pirates a 2-1 lead.

It was in the seventh inning that the Cubs retook the lead thanks again to Contreras. He hit a double off the Clemente Wall in right field off of Nick Mears that plated a pair, putting Chicago ahead 3-2. Contreras drove in all three of the Cubs’ runs. On the night, the Cubs out-hit the Pirates 10-5. 

The final game of this three game set will be on Thursday night at 6:35. Justin Steele (3-4, 4.88 ERA) will pitch for the Cubs and Miguel Yajure (0-1, 4.85 ERA) will make his third start for the Pirates. 

Stat of the Game:

  • For most of his career, Kyle Hendricks has dominated the Pirates. From 2016-2020, Hendricks posted a 2.24 ERA in 88.1 innings over 15 starts. He allowed just nine home runs to the Pirates in those 15 starts. This year, however, Hendricks had his struggles against the Bucs. In his four starts against them prior to Wednesday, pitched to a 7.45 ERA and the Pirates were able to take him deep five times. Hendricks got through the first five innings in this one without allowing a run, but was charged with two in the sixth.

Takeaways:

  • A Glimpse of the Future: It’s no secret that general manager Ben Cherington has been stockpiling young talent since he took over in 2019 as the organization builds for the future. Contreras’ debut marked the highest-regarded prospect acquired by Cherington to make his Major League debut, and he impressed. Contreras has soared up prospect lists thanks to his impressive showing throughout the 2021 season across Double-A Altoona and his lone start at Triple-A Indianapolis. Contreras has the potential to be a front-line starting pitcher in the Major Leagues and he displayed why on Wednesday.
  • .300/.900 Update: Reynolds entered play chasing a .300 batting average and a .900 OPS for the year. Thanks to his two triples and a walk in this one, Reynolds improved his chances off accomplishing both. He now carriers a .298 batting average and an OPS of .903. He’s looking to become the first Pirate to do both in the same season since Andrew McCutchen in 2014. 
  • No More High Leverage: Mears was brought in the game with runners on the corners and two outs in the seventh – a high leverage situation. Using Mears in high leverage situations this season ahs not gone well, and that continued again on  Wednesday. Coming into the night in high leverage situations, opponents were slashing .353/.450/.529. In low leverage situations on the year, Mears has understandably fared much better. Opponents have mustered just a .661 OPS against him in those scenarios this season.
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