The number 21 was visible all over PNC Park on Wednesday night as the Pirates and Reds joined the rest of Major League Baseball in celebrating the life and legacy of Roberto Clemente on Clemente Day. From the backs of the Pirates’ jerseys, to the jersey of Joey Votto, in the right field grass and even on the dirt mound, the tribute to Clemente could be seen by all.
On a magical night, at PNC Park, the Pirates saved some of that magic for the ninth inning. Colin Moran stepped to the plate with runners on first and second and one out. Moran hit a sharp grounder to Votto, who flipped to the pitcher Mychal Givens for the out.
Channeling his inner Clemente, Wilmer Difo, who was on second base, hustled all the way home to score on a ball that never left the infield, giving the Pirates a 5-4 win.
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) September 16, 2021
Yoshi Tsutsugo got the Pirates on the board for the first time with a double the opposite way in the third inning. In the fifth, Tsutsugo again went the other way driving in Hoy Park and giving the Pirates a 4-2 lead. He reached base three times and collected a pair of RBIs on the night.
Bryan Reynolds hit an RBI triple in the third inning to tie the game at 2-2, and Moran plated Reynolds with a sacrifice fly to put the Bucs up a run. Reynolds collected a pair of hits for the game.
The Reds made Mitch Keller work in the first inning. They struck twice off the Pirates’ right-hander, once from Votto and once from Mike Moustakas. Keller threw 32 pitches but was able to escape further damage.
After the first, Keller was really able to settle in and went five strong. Those two runs were the only two Keller allowed, and he picked up three strikeouts on the night. That is an encouraging sign for Keller who in the past has tended to crumble when things got tough for him.
The Reds cut the Pirates’ lead to one when Jonathan India hit a sacrifice fly in the seventh. In the eighth, Kyle Farmer roped a solo shot to left field to tie the game 4-4.
Ben Gamel prevented the Reds from scoring twice. He reached over to left field fence to take a home run away from India, and he later cut down Nick Castellanos on a relay home.
The Bucs have now won three straight series.
The Pirates (again) will go for their first sweep of the season on Thursday afternoon with a 12:35 first pitch on the schedule. Connor Overton (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will make his first career start and Tyler Mahle (11-5, 3.73 ERA) will go for the Reds.
Stat of the Game:
- Keller had struggled against the Reds in his five prior starts against them in his career. Before his five strong on the mound Wednesday, Keller had an 8.86 ERA (21.1ip/21er) with 29 hits allowed, 13 walks and 26 strikeouts. Of the 29 hits allowed, six went for home runs. He was in line to earn his first career victory against the Reds after being lifted, but will have to wait.
- Yoshi!: With his RBI double on Wednesday, Tsutsugo has hits in eight of his last nine games. He’s batting .355 (11 for 31) with two doubles, two homers, eight runs driven in and he’s even drawn eight walks in those nine games. In those eight games, the Pirates have a 5-3 record. Tsutsugo has been a bright spot for the Pirates since signing in August as he entered play with a 1.089 OPS and a 180 wRC+.
- Mr. September: For his career, Keller has had success in the last month of the season. After surrendering two runs in his five innings against the Reds, Keller now has a career ERA of 3.47 in 10 career starts after the calendar hits September, In those 10 starts, Keller has given up 18 runs in 46.2 innings, allowed 44 hits, issued 21 free passes and sat down 54 opposing batters via strikeouts. Last year, Keller did not allow a run or even a hit in his final two starts to end the year (11 innings pitched)
- A Nice Tribute: It really is seeing the entire Pirates team and coaching staff wearing the #21 jerseys with no name on the back to honor Clemente. Kudos to Major League Baseball for allowing Puerto-Rican born coaches and players, the Clemente Award nominees and the past winners to be allowed to be able to do the same. As more and more personnel are allowed to wear the number to honor Clemente, it will be interesting to see if eventually the league allows everyone to wear it on this day, and/or if they one day retire the number across the league. Roberto Clemente Day is truly a special day.