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May 5, 2024 11:56 pm

Oneil Cruz, Pirates look to carry momentum into series vs. Angels

Oneil Cruz

After a relatively slow start at the plate this season, Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz appears primed for a hot streak.

Cruz looks to build on his recent success when the Pirates begin a three-game series against the visiting Los Angeles Angels on Monday.

The Pirates took two of three from the Colorado Rockies over the weekend for their fourth series win of the season.

Los Angeles is still seeking its second series win of the season after losing two of three to the Cleveland Guardians.

Cruz singled and hit a two-run homer in Pittsburgh’s 5-3 win over Colorado on Sunday. The home run was the second in three games for Cruz, who is batting .242 with five homers and 12 RBIs.

“I think the one thing we have to realize with Oneil is he does a lot of things that look easy,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “So, at times, he gets the moniker of, like, ‘The body language is bad.’ He cares. I mean, he’s locked in. But I do think getting a couple of hits, having a couple of good games, your confidence will definitely tick back up.”

Pittsburgh plays the middle three games of its nine-game homestand with a matchup against the Angels, who fell to 12-22 with a 4-1 loss to Cleveland on Sunday.

Los Angeles manager Ron Washington is exercising patience with his team, which played without catcher Logan O’Hoppe (right hand contusion) and infielder Luis Rengifo (illness) on Sunday. Both are expected to return on Monday.

“We just hit May, and we’ve got until September,” Washington said. “We’re trying to figure out how to win ballgames. Some nights we do; we just don’t have the consistency at doing it. But we’re going to keep driving at it every single day.”

The Angels were outscored 11-2 in their last two games and went 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position on Sunday.

“We just need to keep coming in day in and day out, and at some point those will start to fall for clutch hits,” Angels catcher Matt Thaiss said. “It just wasn’t today.”

Los Angeles will send left-hander Tyler Anderson (2-3, 2.23 ERA) to the mound in the series opener. He received a no-decision after allowing three runs over six innings against the visiting Philadelphia Phillies on Tuesday.

Anderson, 34, has lost his last three decisions following back-to-back victories to begin the season.

Connor Joe is 3-for-10 against Anderson, who won his only previous start versus Pittsburgh on July 23, 2023. He yielded four runs over six innings in the 7-5 victory in Anaheim, Calif.

Pittsburgh will counter with right-hander Mitch Keller (2-3, 5.18), who has allowed a total of 11 runs across 16 innings over his last three outings.

The 28-year-old Keller allowed three runs over five innings in a 5-2 loss to the host Oakland Athletics on Tuesday.

“Just frustrating again,” said Keller. “I started to get the rhythm there in the fourth or the fifth. Those last two innings felt really good. Just limit damage in the second. Leadoff double didn’t help. Yeah, just frustrating.”

Brandon Drury is 3-for-5 with a home run and six RBIs against Keller, who has made 38 straight starts of at least five innings. He is 1-1 with a 6.30 ERA in two career starts against the Angels.

–Field Level Media

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