Zach Thompson dominates, giving Pirates 3-1 win over Reds
PITTSBURGH — Zach Thompson has looked like a completely different pitcher since the calendar turned to May.
It started with a scoreless relief outing against the Detroit Tigers in the second game of the Pirates’ May 4 doubleheader. It escalated with five shutout innings in Thompson’s most recent start, May 8 against the Cincinnati Reds.
On Saturday, in a 3-1 win over those same Reds, Thompson reached a new level entirely.
The right-hander navigated the first five innings against the Reds allowing no hits, though he did walk three batters. In the sixth, he induced two consecutive groundouts before finally permitting a base knock, a single to right field against a shifted infield from Brandon Drury.
Thompson stranded Drury at first, getting a flyout to end the sixth. After 76 pitches, it was the end of his night, but Thompson took yet another positive step toward righting his season in May following a brutal month of April.
This particular outing was impressive given its place in this Reds series, too. For all the faults within the Cincinnati offense, Friday night’s starter Mitch Keller found it difficult to stay off the Reds’ barrels, allowing extremely hard contact consistently.
Thompson achieved the opposite. He faced 21 batters, and just five of them put the ball in play with an exit velocity of 95 miles per hour or harder. Four of those five resulted in groundouts and the fifth was the sixth-inning flyout that ended Thompson’s night.
In particular, Thompson’s cutter was on point. He threw the pitch 22 times, his second-most-frequently thrown offering. Of those 22 pitches, nine of them were either called for a strike or swung through by Reds hitters.
Thompson’s relative dominance was backed up by his bullpen. Right-hander Wil Crowe took the seventh and allowed one run off two singles and a walk, but right-handers Chris Stratton and David Bednar slammed the door in the eighth and ninth innings, respectively.
That type of pitching performance was necessary, too. The Pirates didn’t necessarily break out on offense, though the contributions they did get were impressive.
In the second, their youth contingent got things going. Outfielder Jack Suwinski got on base via a fielders’ choice before shortstop Rodolfo Castro singled to put runners on the corners with two outs. A balk from Reds starter Luis Castillo did the Pirates a favor, scoring Suwinski, but Diego Castillo cashed in with an RBI single soon after. Three rookies producing two early runs.
Balancing things out in the fourth, veteran designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach pitched in with a bit more authority, launching a 433-foot, solo home run to dead center, landing just short of the batter’s eye.
Strong pitching with just enough offense has not been a winning formula for the Pirates, either. This game marked the first time this season the Pirates have won a game scoring three runs or fewer, moving them to 1-18 in such games this season.
On this night, it was a winning formula, though, thanks in large part to Thompson’s vast improvement this month.