Contreras hits bump, but flashes strikeout stuff

September 22nd, 2022

NEW YORK --  It was a reunion of sorts between Pirates right-hander Roansy Contreras and the Yankees on Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium. 

Contreras started the game against the organization with whom he began his career as a Minor Leaguer, but his time with New York ended when he was traded to Pittsburgh in January 2021 as part of a package for right-hander Jameson Taillon.

“I came from that organization. I’m really familiar with [them]. I just see that team like any other team,” Contreras said through interpreter Mike Gonzalez.  

The Yankees jumped on Contreras early as if they had an idea of his game plan, getting the rookie off to a slow start. It proved costly as the Pirates were defeated by the Yanks, 14-2, at Yankee Stadium. Pittsburgh was swept in the two-game series and now finds itself on a six-game losing streak.

“We have to flush this out. We started this road trip really well by winning four games [against the Reds],” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “We came in and played two playoff teams [the Mets and the Yankees] that are both really playing well now. We have to bounce back and get after the Cubs.”   

Although he struck out the side in the first inning, Contreras had a frame he would like to forget. He threw 32 pitches and allowed a double, two walks and then a grand slam to former instructional league teammate Oswaldo Cabrera.

Shelton felt Contreras’ biggest problem was throwing his slider for strikes. 

“In the first inning, we have to put the ball on the plate. We can’t put ourselves in a deficit like that,” the skipper said.  

Contreras settled down for the next three innings, retiring 10 of the next 11 hitters he faced while recording six more strikeouts. It helped that he had his slider back in tune and an effective rising fastball.

“I just remained focused, no matter the situation, sticking to the plan and attacking the hitters. I was able to come through in those innings,” Contreras said.

But Contreras would struggle once again in the fifth inning, allowing two runs before leaving the game in favor of Chase De Jong. Despite the damage to his line, Contreras finished with a career-high 10 strikeouts.

“Outings like this -- eventually, they are going to happen in your career,” Contreras said. “You just have to remain focused and mentally prepared for situations like that. Outings like this, you take the opportunity to grow and learn from them.”

Although four Pirates pitchers combined to allow 14 runs, they held Aaron Judge without a homer in five plate appearances, as he went 2-for-4 with two runs scored. In his final at-bat against reliever Eric Stout in the eighth inning, Judge walked on four pitches, and the fans were upset that he would not get a chance to tie Roger Maris’ American League record of 61 home runs.

Stout said he heard the boos, but he was more worried about the next hitter, Anthony Rizzo, who ended up flying out.

“The changeup has been a good pitch for me this season and that was the game plan going into the [Judge] at-bat regardless,” Stout said.