Bucs scuffle after Moran (left groin) exits

Tom's 1st career homer the only Pirates offense in loss

May 8th, 2021

The Pirates lost Saturday’s game against the Cubs, 3-2, at Wrigley Field, but they may have a longer-lasting issue with one of their primary position players.

left Saturday’s game in the first inning with left groin discomfort. Moran caught a liner off the bat of Jason Heyward with the bases loaded, and he quickly reached to try to tag Willson Contreras for an inning-ending double play. In the process, Moran tweaked his groin and grimaced in pain immediately.

“When we got out there, we were trying to be point-specific with what happened,” manager Derek Shelton said, “but he did not [say exactly what tweaked it].”

The Pirates’ everyday first baseman, who moved across the diamond full-time this season, had to be helped off the field and into the visiting clubhouse at Wrigley Field.

“He’ll get looked at, and he’ll be day to day,” Shelton said. “We’ll go from there.”

With rookie third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes out since the second game of the season, Moran has stepped up to be a key part of the Pirates’ offensive production. He leads all qualified Pittsburgh hitters with an .821 OPS and is tied with Phillip Evans for the most home runs on the team.

The Pirates found some production without Moran thanks in large part to Ka’ai Tom, who launched his first Major League home run in the fourth inning to score two runs. Adam Frazier reached base safely four times, but the offense was unable to push him in, and it proved costly when Matt Duffy hit a go-ahead pinch-hit single in the seventh inning.

If Moran's injury lingers like Hayes’ left wrist discomfort has, it will be a challenge to replace the production in the long run. Todd Frazier, the primary depth option at first base on the active roster who filled in for Moran on Saturday, is 1-for-31 with three walks to begin his tenure with the Pirates. Evans has some Major League reps at first under his belt, but with Gregory Polanco on the injured list, they could use his experience in right field.

Other options include Hunter Owen, who made his Major League debut this week in San Diego. He got 17 starts at first base in 2019 at Triple-A Indianapolis. Erik González last played first in 2018 with Cleveland, but it’s likely he’ll stick on the left side of the infield with Hayes still on the injured list. Rodolfo Castro, an infield prospect who also debuted this season, is on the 40-man roster.

On the board
Tom has found ways to get on base to begin his tenure with the Pirates, but the hits have been harder to come by. However, Tom got the biggest knock of his young career on Saturday, as he launched a two-run homer -- the first of his career -- in the fourth inning that gave Pittsburgh a one-run lead at the time.

Cubs starter Trevor Williams fired a 2-2 four-seam fastball on the lower border of the strike zone that Tom was able to crouch down and barrel up, sending the ball rocketing a Statcast-projected 382 feet to left-center field with an exit velocity of 103.8 mph.

“I just stuck right through it and followed through with the swing,” Tom said. “Fortunately, I put a pretty good swing on it, and it was a go-ahead home run at that point.”

The Rule 5 pick has begun his time in Pittsburgh batting 4-for-19 (.211), but he’s gotten on base at a .393 clip with great plate discipline leading to five walks to balance four strikeouts. The Pirates hope his homer is a sign of his acclimation to Major League hitting, which he thinks is trending in the right direction.

“I'm very happy that I've been getting a lot of opportunities to start games,” Tom said, “and I’m getting more at-bats and just kind of feeling out the game at the big league level and caught up to speed.”

Crowe sets mark
Wil Crowe rebounded from a weird first inning to complete six innings with only two runs allowed vs. the Cubs, marking the longest start of his career.

Crowe said he had a little bit of trouble with his grip in the first inning, with the cold, unbroken baseballs feeling like “cue balls” out of the hand. But unlike his last start, when he relied on fastball command to get through the game, he felt he had everything clicking on Saturday.

“Being able to throw those pitches for strikes gives me an opportunity to do what we want: Command the game on our side of things and not have to pitch differently,” Crowe said. “We got to go with our game plan today. We got to do what we wanted against guys and go after them.”