Catcher is one of the toughest positions in the sport. It’s even harder when you’re forced into duty in an emergency. Pittsburgh‘with Josh VanMeter discovered it the hard way.
VanMeter had to put himself behind the board on Saturday for the first time since he was a teenager, and the Cincinnati Reds took the lead to break a nine-game losing streak, defeating the Pirates 9-2 in the opening duel.
Tyler Stephenson heavily fouled the ball on VanMeter’s mask and then hit a double in a tiebreak filled with bases in the eighth inning, sparking a seven-round burst.
Pirates starter Roberto Pérez received off-field assistance due to a left tendon injury after falling as he rounded up second base at the top of the eighth. Reserve catcher Andrew Knapp was kicked out by referee Will Little at the bottom of the sixth for chirping from the dugout.
That left VanMeter as the next best option for Pirates – recently another base player / Polish player recalled the last time he was caught when he was 14 or 15 years old.
The 27-year-old VanMeter, who started his career in Cincinnati in 2019 and in his first season with the Pirates, moved from second base to a spot behind the board to start eighth and do his best. He also showed how hard it is to be a catcher, even for a professional who has played the most everywhere on a diamond.
Working with a new, inexperienced colleague from the battery, Wil Crowe (1-2) hit Brandon Drury and followed Tommy Pham and Mike Moustakas to start the eighth without a car and score 2-all.
Stephenson stepped up and fouled the first field straight back. VanMeter took off his mask for a moment to recover, and Little went to the pile to give Crowe a new ball, giving the new catcher a break. Stephenson, a catcher from Cincinnati, and VanMeter shared a few words in the meantime.
With the number 0-2, VanMeter scored three straight sliders near the zone, but did not receive any calls – perhaps his apparent lack of experience within the field cost the Pirates.
Stephenson then hit a line that broke through the right line of the field that escaped diving Ben Gamel and rolled to the wall twice. It was Stephenson’s third goal of the day and brought him four RBIs in his career.
Kyle Farmer added sacrifice before Tyler drove Naquin in three runs with a double-filled base. Only three rounds were earned after a mistake by pitcher Beau Sulser.
The Reds recorded their biggest total of the season and won for the first time since beating St. Paul on April 24th. Louis 4-1. Cincinnati still has the worst baseball record of 4-22.
Pittsburgh filled the bases with no one in the eighth against Lucas Sims (1-0), who came back and knocked out Ke’Bryan Hayes, Daniel Vogelbach and Michael Chavis.
The Pirates have lost three of their last four and seven of their last nine games. Saturday’s duel was the second in four days for the Pirates, who shared a twinbill in Detroit on Wednesday.
The announced first attendance of 9,267 was Cincinnati’s second lowest attendance of the season at home, just ahead of 9,192 available for defeat by San Diego on April 27 by a score of 8-5.
Pirates starter JT Brubaker equaled his career in one game high with nine outbursts in five innings. The Reds reached Brubaker for three goals and two runs with two moves.
Reported by the Associated Press.
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