Shades of Kranick's debut in gem vs. Phils

September 26th, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- had been waiting three months to match the excitement from his spectacular MLB debut -- and he did exactly that pitching in front of more than 50 family members and friends on Sunday at Citizens Bank Park.

Kranick, who grew up less than 150 miles away in Scranton, Pa., tossed five scoreless innings to pick up the win in Pittsburgh's 6-0 victory over Philadelphia. It marked Kranick's first win since his debut on June 27, when he struck out three over five perfect innings against the Cardinals.

Kranick was by no means perfect this time around -- he allowed four hits and walked three (one intentionally) -- but the 24-year-old ultimately silenced a Phillies lineup that scored 23 runs in the first three games of the series. That came after he had posted an 8.76 ERA over six starts since his debut. Kranick had allowed at least three runs in each of those outings.

In this one, however, Kranick stranded at least one baserunner in every inning to keep the Phils off the board. Clinging to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth, Kranick intentionally walked Bryce Harper to put two on with two outs for J.T. Realmuto. The righty forced Realmuto to chop one to shortstop Kevin Newman for an inning-ending fielder's choice.

“I feel like a lot of my outings have been very similar and I haven’t been able to get out of those situations,” Kranick said. “So I’ve been working really hard on my in-between days to make sure I get out of those situations and breathe and execute. So yeah, I was really excited and fired up to get out of that.”

Kranick had been staked to that 1-0 lead when Cole Tucker jumped all over the first pitch of the afternoon -- and the first career pitch from Phillies prospect Hans Crouse -- for a leadoff homer. That proved to be the only run scored by either team through the first six innings.

“It was awesome,” Tucker said. “It was euphoric. It felt good, especially because it kind of held up for a moment. I was like, ‘Are we really going to win this one, 1-0?’ But we ended up doing more -- Ke’Bryan [Hayes] had more to say about that.”

With the bases loaded in the seventh, Hayes lined a two-run double into the right-field corner to extend the lead to 3-0. Yoshi Tsutsugo then delivered a two-run single with the bags full in the eighth. The final run came in the ninth, when Hayes lined a leadoff single, then advanced to second on a passed ball, third on a wild pitch and scored on a balk.

Those insurance runs were key for a Pirates team that had let leads slip away in two of the first three games of this series. Pittsburgh jumped out to a 6-0 lead on Thursday, only to drop a 12-6 decision. The Bucs then led 4-1 on Friday en route to an 8-6 loss.

Making Kranick's impressive outing and the Pirates' late rallies all the more impressive was the fact that it all came against a Phillies club that entered the day just 1 1/2 games back in the NL East. The Phils are not only in the thick of a postseason race, but they were also playing in front of 29,336 fans in the final home game of the season.

“When you're playing a team that's really in contention like that, when you beat them and really kind of suck the wind out of their sails, you really feel it and the stadium really feels it,” Tucker said. “So it was sweet to be on the other side of that and play the spoiler.”

Some of Kranick’s cheering section weren’t quite as pleased. After all, many of those family members and friends from nearby Scranton are lifelong Phillies fans, though Kranick grew up a Mets fan.

“At the end, they said to me if that’s the one reason why they don’t get in, they’re going to be very mad at me,” Kranick said. “So that was funny.”

Either way, this is the type of atmosphere in which manager Derek Shelton wants to see his young players thrive.

"Nothing takes away from Major League games and nothing takes away from Major League games in environments where -- you don't say it's must-win every night -- but when you're in a playoff hunt, it is must-win every night," Shelton said. "To take that energy and be able to translate it, it's second to none. You can't compare it to a Spring Training game, you can't compare it to anything else. It's very important for our group, and as they learn and mature, to learn how these situations should be handled and how to play these games."