Right-hander Wil Crowe will make the first start of his Pittsburgh career on Sunday afternoon as the Pirates try for their third consecutive road series win against the reeling Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis.
The Pirates, who are 9-5 over their past 14 games, started their current nine-game road trip by taking two of three at both Detroit and Milwaukee and have split the first two games of the series, bouncing back from a 2-0 loss on Friday night that saw J.A. Happ no-hit them for 7 1/3 innings to win 6-2 on Saturday afternoon.
Crowe (0-0, 13.50 ERA) has pitched just once this season for Pittsburgh, allowing one run on a hit and two walks in 2/3 of an inning in a 5-1 loss against the Cubs in Chicago on April 3.
Obtained along with Eddy Yean from the Washington Nationals on Dec. 24 for Josh Bell, Crowe was a second-round pick by the Nationals in the 2017 MLB Draft out of South Carolina. He compiled an 0-2 record and 11.88 ERA in three starts with Washington in 2020, allowing 14 hits, 11 earned runs and five home runs while walking eight in just 8 1/3 innings.
But Crowe compiled a 0.77 ERA while throwing 11 2/3 innings during an impressive spring training to put himself in contention for a starting spot this season. He said a major reason for his turnaround was an emphasis of working on his pitch tunneling with pitching coach Oscar Marin.
“I think in the past when I was doing bad, I would get out of my tunnel,” Crowe told MLB.com. “Every pitch was going to a different spot. So hammering the two-seam, the slider, the changeup; they play great off each other.”
Crowe will be going against a Minnesota squad that has managed just eight hits in the first two games of the series, including three in a 6-2 loss on Saturday afternoon. The two-time defending AL Central champs are just 2-10 in their past 12 games after starting the season 5-2.
The Twins, who have had to overcome cold weather and the loss of several key players to COVID-19 protocol, appeared to have turned the corner offensively when they banged out 18 hits in a 13-12 loss at Oakland on Wednesday afternoon.
But journeyman right-hander Trevor Cahill (1-2), who entered the game with a9.69 ERA, held them to just one run on two hits over six innings on Saturday.
“Trevor Cahill was outstanding, went back-and-forth, kept them off balance,” said Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton. “Exactly like we talked about pregame, what he needed to do, and he executed against a good lineup. And our bullpen was good again.”
“We haven’t found a way to put it all together with good at-bats on a daily basis,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “As long as our preparation and everything we do to get our guys ready for the game remains the same, I know we have good players.”
Right-hander Matt Shoemaker (1-1, 6.28) will make his first-ever start against the Pirates for Minnesota. Shoemaker comes in off a 7-0 loss at Oakland on Tuesday when he allowed five runs on four hits and four walks over 3 1/3 innings.
“At the end of the day, we know we’re a really talented team,” Twins designated hitter Nelson Cruz said. “We have the tools to get it going and get it done. It’s just a matter of time until we put everything together.”
–Field Level Media