Pittsburgh Pirates’ Oneil Cruz, left, scores ahead of the throw to Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras on a sacrifice fly by Hoy Park during the second inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh, Monday, June 20, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
By JOHN PERROTTO Associated Press
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Newly promoted Oneil Cruz drove in four runs and Bligh Madris got three hits in his major league debut, sparking the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 12-1 romp over the Chicago Cubs on Monday night.
Both rookies were called up from Triple-A Indianapolis earlier in the day and they delivered right away.
Cruz, considered Pittsburgh’s top prospect, hit a three-run double to deep center field that capped a four-run third inning to push the Pirates’ lead to 7-0. He was playing in the third big league game of his career.
The 6-foot-7 Cruz also hit an RBI single in a five-run seventh as the Pirates set a season high for runs. He started the final two games of last season when he became the tallest shortstop in major league history.
Cruz’s double had an exit velocity of 112.9 mph, his throw to first base on a groundout was clocked at 96.7 mph and his sprint speed registered as high as 31.5 feet/second while running the bases. All are among the highest marks by a Pirates player since the MLB Statcast era began in 2015.
“He can affect the game in a lot of ways, and we saw it tonight,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said.
Madris hit a two-run single in the second inning in his first at-bat in the majors. The outfielder keyed a three-run inning that included the first of Hoy Park’s two sacrifice flies.
Madris became the first Pirates player to have a three-hit game in his debut since Jason Kendall in 1996.
“That was a lot of fun and everything I could ask for,” Madris said with a big smile. “With (batting practice) getting canceled today, when I stepped in the box, it was really my first at-bat in the big leagues. The game threw a little bit of everything at me today. Thankful for the opportunity. It was awesome.”
JT Brubaker (1-7) pitched six scoreless innings for his first win since last Aug. 24, a span of 14 starts.
Brubaker scattered five hits while striking out five and walking three. He has a 2.65 ERA in his last six starts.
“I go out there to compete and to put the team in the best (position) to win the game,” Brubaker said. “Whether I get one under the W column or not, it doesn’t matter to me. I just want team Ws.”
The Pirates took advantage of five walks by rookie Caleb Kilian (0-2), who was tagged for seven runs in 2 1/3 innings. Kilian was making his third career start.
“He didn’t repeat throwing balls in the zone consistently,” Chicago manager David Ross said. “Just a lot of noncompetitive pitches and he got behind in the count. It was just a hard 2 2/3 innings for him.”
Daniel Vogelbach hit a two-run double in the Pirates’ big seventh inning and Tyler Heineman’s RBI double made it 12-1.
The Cubs scored their run in the seventh on Ian Happ’s single. Happ, Rafael Ortega and Nico Hoerner had two hits apiece.
Both teams came into Monday having lost 11 of their last 13 games.
HERE COME THE KIDS
Cruz was hitting .232 with nine home runs and 11 stolen bases in 55 games at Indianapolis. Madris became the 12th Pirates player to make his major league debut this year.
Cruz is the third shortstop in big league history to have seven RBIs in his first three career games along with Hall of Famer Paul Molitor and Trevor Story.
Madris became the first Pirates player to have a hit, RBI and stolen base in his first big league game since Andrew McCutchen in 2009.
The Cubs recalled outfielder Nelson Velazquez from Triple-A Iowa and optioned right-hander Adrian Sampson to the same club.
Velazquez, the Arizona Fall League MVP last year, is one of 15 rookies to see action for the Cubs this season. He debuted May 30.
The game was delayed for a few minutes in the bottom of the second inning when a squirrel ran on to the field.
The squirrel appeared to enter from along the stands on the third base side. He then scampered into the left field corner.
Three members of the grounds crew were able to coax the critter into exiting the field through the bullpen gate.
“The squirrel, what was his sprint speed?” Shelton cracked. “We had to get that in the Statcast era. Definitely one of the worst rundowns I’ve seen. And I’ve seen a couple bad ones.”
Cubs: RHP Marcus Stroman (right shoulder inflammation) is expected to throw a bullpen in the next few days, his first since going on the injured list June 7.
Pirates: RHP Zach Thompson (right forearm nerve inflammation) was placed on the 15-day IL and said he believes the injury isn’t serious. The Pirates have not decided who will take Thompson’s spot in the rotation. … 1B Yoshi Tsutsugo (lumbar muscle strain), SS Kevin Newman (left groin/left hamstring strains) and INF/OF Josh VanMeter (fractured right ring finger) are scheduled to begin rehab assignments with Indianapolis on Tuesday.
Cubs: Rookie RHP Matt Swarmer (1-2, 5.23 ERA) will make his fifth career start Tuesday night.
Pirates: Rookie RHP Roansy Contreras (1-1, 3.06) has allowed four runs in each of his last two starts.