Pittsburgh Pirates wake-up call: VICTORY

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In the fifth game of the season the Pirates hosted the Cincinnati Reds for the first of four games on Thursday night.

For the first seven innings it was a pitching duel between two guys you wouldn’t expect to see one from. Jordan Lyles, in his first start of the season for the Pirates, went five innings, allowed three hits, walking three and striking out two, all while holding the Reds scoreless.

His counterpart for the Reds was Tyler Mahle, who went six innings, with five strikeouts and five hits allowed.

In the seventh inning the Pirates finally put a run on the board when Kevin Newman, in his first start of the season at shortstop, hit a soft ground ball that was just good enough to score Pablo Reyes from third base to make it 1-0. They added another run in the bottom of eighth when Josh Bell singled in Startling Marte.

The bullpen bounced back after a few rough days. After Lyles left, they turned to Nick Kingham for two innings and then Richard Rodriguez had a nice bounce-back eighth inning, getting his first hold of the season before Felipe Vazquez came in and closed the door to give the Pirates their second win on the season and his first save.

Once again, there’s plenty to take away from the game.

The rotation is at it again:Through five games this season the Pirates rotation has been amazing. In those five games, the rotation has thrown 29 innings and given up just five runs. That is good enough for a 1.55 ERA while recording 25 strikeouts in the same amount of innings.

Before Lyles Thursday night, we have seen Jameson Taillon get two starts, Chris Archer had eight of those strikeouts in the home opener, and Trevor Williams threw six scoreless innings in their only win prior to Thursday’s 2-0 win. If the rotation can keep this consistency all season, then they have a real shot in almost every game.

Who’s in left field?: It came out earlier in the day Thursday that Corey Dickerson will need to go on the injured list for at least 10 days, but it is looking like it could be much longer and it might take until early May for him to come back. The Pirates are going to go with JB Shuck for now and if the reports are true, they will be calling up Jason Martin for Friday’s game. With the injuries to Gregory Polanco and Lonnie Chisenhall already, the outfield depth is going to be tested. The Pirates are going to have to fight through it for the next few weeks as guys get healthy and they’re going to have to be carried by Marte for the time being.

RISP: Even with a win tonight the Pirates are still struggling with runners in scoring position. In the five games this season they’re hitting just .214 (9-for-42).

They went 1-7 Thursday night and that won’t cut it when they’re trying to win with such a slim margin of error. If the offense is going to help this rotation out they will need to do more in that category.

Up next: On Friday, Joe Musgrove will make his first start of the season for the Pirates as the Reds will send out Sonny Gray at PNC Park. Gray will be making his second start of the season against the Pirates, which happens to be his second start overall with the Reds.

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