'Outstanding' Hill helps Bucs to series sweep, 5th straight 'W'

Bednar continues recent dominance to help protect lead; Hayes heating up at plate

June 4th, 2023

PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates didn’t need much time to put their May struggles behind them. 

With a 2-1 win on Sunday at PNC Park, the Pirates' win streak reached five, and it was their first sweep of the Cardinals in a three-game series since late April in 2018.

“That's a good lineup, and they've been perennially very, very good, and I think that that's something to obviously take stock of,” Rich Hill said. “Anytime you're going out there, you're facing great players, night in and night out. We know we have a very good team. We've had meetings in here and we talk about it and reinforce it and just continue to go out there and give that effort every single night and understand that [if] we continue to put in the work, it'll start the show every night on the field."

After the bullpen combined to pitch five innings on Friday and seven innings on Saturday, Hill made life a tad easier by allowing just one run via a solo home run and four hits and three walks across a season-high 6 2/3 innings with six strikeouts. The Cardinals had some traffic on the bases in the first couple innings, but after walking Paul DeJong to begin the fourth inning, Hill began a stretch of retiring 11 consecutive batters.

“That’s what veteran starters do,” manager Derek Shelton said. “He’s very aware of how we used our bullpen. He went out and executed pitches. … He kept ‘em off-balance the entire day. He made one bad pitch, a bad cutter that turned into a slider. Other than that, I thought he was outstanding.”

While the bullpen did not have to take on a heavy workload, it was tasked with protecting a one-run lead once Hill departed. As they’ve done so often over the last couple days, Pittsburgh’s relievers slammed the door.

Dauri Moreta completed the seventh inning and left a runner stranded by striking out Paul Goldschmidt swinging and, for the second time in as many nights, striking a pose before heading back to the dugout.

Yohan Ramirez, quietly emerging as another late-inning option, put up zeroes in the eighth inning, dropping his ERA to 1.29 across 21 innings.

For a third consecutive game, the ninth inning belonged to David Bednar. The Renegade pitched a scoreless frame as he recorded his 13th save of the season, the first time in his career that he’s recorded saves in three consecutive Pirates games. Bednar had gone most of May without a save due to not having many opportunities, but he has now recorded saves in four of the Pirates’ past five wins.

"In my opinion, he's one of the best,” Hill said. “I'd put him up there with any of the guys that I've played with, who arguably could be -- and probably will be -- Hall of Famers. I think that's something where you see that mix of pitches that he is able to use and execute is special. I know it's early for David and his career, but you can see that conviction and that confidence, and that's something that you want in your closer and that's something that we're fortunate to have."

As the Pirates have begun to heat up, so has Ke’Bryan Hayes, who notched his second three-hit game of the series with a trio of singles. Coming into this series against the Cardinals, Hayes only had one three-hit game the entire season.

Hayes struggled for much of May, finishing the month with a .570 OPS across 101 plate appearances, but over his past four games, the third baseman is 9-for-16 with a double, a triple, two home runs and seven RBIs. With the go-ahead three-run home run on Friday and a solo home run on Saturday, Hayes homered in back-to-back games for the first time in the same season in his career.

“In [my] mind, it gives me confidence to be aggressive, knowing that I’m moving the right way, and my body is in the right position,” Hayes said Saturday. “I feel like I can see the ball a little better. I can take more chances.”