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Jun 25, 2024 4:34 am

Young star shortstops on display in Reds-Pirates series

Elly De La Cruz

Elly De La Cruz and Oneil Cruz have two games to figure out a proper encore for their Monday night performances.

The electric shortstops will each look to top the other again Tuesday night, when De La Cruz and the Cincinnati Reds host Cruz and the Pittsburgh Pirates in the middle game of a three-game series between the National League Central rivals.

Hunter Greene (5-2, 3.35 ERA) is slated to start for the Reds against fellow right-hander Mitch Keller (8-4, 3.11).

De La Cruz, 22, and Cruz, 25, each starred Monday night, when the Reds beat the Pirates 11-5 to leave the teams with identical 37-41 records.

The shortstops bounced back from a quiet head-to-head series last week — when they hit a combined .200 (4-of-20) with two RBIs, one extra-base hit and one stolen base as the host Pirates took two of three from the Reds — by going a combined 5-for-10 with two homers and six RBIs on Monday.

De La Cruz finished a triple shy of the cycle in the series opener. He put the game away in the sixth inning by hitting a 439-foot, two-run homer into the Riverboat atop center field to extend the Reds’ lead to 11-3.

De La Cruz went deep hours after he and teammate Jonathan India talked good-natured trash about the other’s inability to homer onto the Riverboat during batting practice.

“He was like, ‘No way, man. You can’t hit it harder than me,'” said India, contributed an RBI double immediately before De La Cruz’s homer. “I was like, ‘You can’t even hit the boat.’ Then he did it in the game. I was in awe at second base. I couldn’t believe he did it.”

Cruz provided the game’s final runs with an impressive homer in the seventh — a two-run shot that traveled 458 feet into the right field bleachers. He also helped the Pirates force Reds reliever Justin Wilson to throw 27 pitches in the ninth inning, when Cruz singled with two outs.

Pittsburgh eventually loaded the bases before Wilson ended the game by striking out Nick Gonzales.

“I was proud of the fact they kept playing,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said of his players. “We ended the game with the bases loaded and we continued to grind out at-bats.”

Pirates left fielder Bryan Reynolds finished 2-for-4 with a walk and an RBI as he extended his hitting streak to 21 games. It is the longest active hitting streak in the majors and the longest by a Pittsburgh player since Jason Kendall hit in 23 consecutive games from June 24-July 21, 2003.

Greene and Keller opposed one another on Wednesday, when neither pitcher factored into the decision in the Pirates’ 1-0 win. Greene gave up two hits and struck out nine over 6 1/3 scoreless innings, while Keller surrendered two hits and whiffed seven over seven shutout innings.

Greene is 0-2 with a 1.55 ERA in five career starts against the Pirates. Keller is 2-4 with a 5.45 ERA in 15 career starts vs. the Reds.

–Field Level Media

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