Pirates end 12-game road trip with win over Rockies

DENVER — The Pirates wrapped up their longest road trip in 17 years on Sunday at Coors Field, and they did it with an 8-3 win over the Rockies that’s bigger than it first appears.

Pittsburgh opened the 12-game trip by splitting two games in Cincinnati, taking two of the Brewers’ top three at NL Central, then winning the first two games of their series in Miami before the Marlins beat them consecutively. consecutive days.

Then came Denver, and two straight losses in which the Pirates were outclassed, 15-2. A loss on Sunday would send Pittsburgh into the All-Star break with five straight losses and a sour taste leaving Coors. But the Bucs have been resilient. They made sure that didn’t happen.

Bryse Wilson was called up from Triple-A Indianapolis to get a start and was solid for 3 1/3 innings before the Pirates got 5 2/3 solid frames from the bullpen. Daniel Vogelbach, Jake Marisnick, Michael Chavis and Kevin Newman were all big at the plate after the Pittsburgh roster was shut out on Saturday.

But a plaque appearance served as a microcosm for the odyssey that was the Pirates’ road trip to close out the first half of the season. In the ninth inning, with Pittsburgh leading, 5-3, Oneil Cruz came to the plate with runners on the corners and two outs.

Cruz was 0 for 4 with four strikeouts that day, and he was in a 2-for-18 slump. On top of that, he made a costly pitching error on Saturday that led to a Rockies run in a 2-0 loss.

Cruz’s season with the Pirates, which began when he was called up from Indianapolis on June 20, opened with a bang — he went 2-for-5 with a double and four RBIs. The 6-foot-7 rookie shortstop showed off his brilliant tools in the days that followed, throwing mammoth home runs with an effortless swing and tossing baseballs to first base with incredible speed. But he started to struggle, as is inevitable with any player making the leap to the big leagues – phenom or otherwise.

The Pirates’ road trip followed a similar pattern – a great tee shot and a quick, well-timed strike to produce a four-game winning streak, followed by four-game losing streak. But neither Cruz nor the Bucs were fazed.

Cruz delivered a two-out left single that resulted in an insurance run. Despite the adversity and disappointment of the last two days, the 23-year-old got away with it in the clutch.

“For me, my mindset has always been to stay focused,” Cruz said through an interpreter. “My mindset has always been to be a competitor, to be a winner. It doesn’t matter if I go 0 for 5 or if we lose a whole bunch of games in a row, or whatever the situation is, good or bad. My mindset is always to stay focused.

That focus resulted in a big hit for Cruz and a big win for the Pirates as they break through Friday. The determination to finish the trip well, and to do so on the first night of the MLB Draft, provided a notable intersection: A young team building for the future will need experiences like Sunday’s at Coors Field if it wants to achieve its goal. destination, and the final piece of the jigsaw was put in place in Los Angeles as the Pirates made prep second baseman Termarr Johnson the fourth overall pick.

“I give our group a ton of credit, it was a total team victory,” manager Derek Shelton said. “…Not having played well the first two games here – because we played well in Miami and then we got knocked out the last two nights there in extra innings – so yeah, I think that’s really important for the group to go into the break feeling good about themselves.

Cruz, Shelton said, has been through a “trial by fire” as he adjusts to the Majors, especially with all the left-handed pitchers he’s seen lately. But Shelton also added that it makes him “smile for a young kid” when he thinks about how Cruz put away his four strikeouts and delivered big behind.

It’s just another example of the learning process, one that Cruz and the Pirates continue to navigate as they look to the future.

“Baseball is a really tough sport,” Cruz said. “Sometimes people forget how difficult it can be to get into the major leagues. It’s baseball. It’s the game I love, the game I know. Staying focused, keeping my cool, being able to help the team with that last hit, I think that’s what it’s all about.

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