Cruz HR, drives in lead run, Pirates top Reds on opening day

Pittsburgh Pirates' Oneil Cruz (15) hits a solo home run against the Cincinnati Reds in the second inning of an opening day baseball game in Cincinnati on Thursday, March 30, 2023. (AP)

CINCINNATI (AP) — Oneil Cruz homered shortly after being helped by a pitch clock violation and later hit a go-ahead sacrifice fly in the eighth inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates opened the season by beating the Cincinnati Reds 5-4 Thursday.

“It was a team victory,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “We scored some runs without putting the ball on the grass. A lot of good stuff happened today.”

The game was played in 3 hours, 2 minutes under new rules this season designed to speed things up. There were a combined 15 walks and 26 strikeouts which contributed to the game’s length.

Reds pitchers issued nine free passes.

“Yeah, that was kind of the story of the day,” Reds manager David Bell said. “That will get cleaned up. That’s not a concern.”

There were two pitch-clock violations, committed by Reds starter Hunter Greene in the third and Pirates starter Mitch Keller in the fourth. Both at-bats ended with home runs.

“I knew were getting down there, and I kept shaking and didn’t get the pitch that we wanted,” Keller said of his clock violation. “I wasn’t too worried about it. It went to 2-2, we were still fine.”

Keller fanned eight over 4 1/3 innings.

Reds third baseman Spencer Steer hit a solo homer in the fourth.

Greene committed the Reds’ first clock violation turning an 0-2 count to 1-2 against Cruz leading off the third. Cruz hit a tying, solo homer on a 3-2 pitch.

His go-ahead sacrifice fly also came on a 3-2 pitch.

“I shortened up my swing, knowing the importance of that run,” Cruz said, via a translator. “To hit a home run, drive in the go-ahead run, it was a really good day.”

Greene, 23, became the youngest pitcher to start for the Reds on opening day since Frank Pastore in 1980. He stuck out eight and walked three in 3 1/3 innings.

“We made him work,” Shelton said. “We know he has good stuff. We made him execute pitches and got his pitch count up.”

Fernando Cruz replaced Greene and allowed three runs on two walks and a wild pitch, all coming with the bases loaded.

“It was just a tough day, mainly for Fernando,” Bell said. “He’s been pitching well. They weren’t biting on the split and that’s his pitch.”

Keller’s pitch clock violation occurred in the fourth on 1-2 pitch to Steer who homered to the opposite field two pitches later.

Jason Vosler, a non-roster invitee to spring training, had a two-run triple to tie the score in the fifth.

The Reds had the tying run on base in the eighth, but Stuart Fairchild was caught stealing resulting in an inning-ending double play. It was a close call, but upheld by video review.

The Reds are hoping for a better start after going 3-22 to begin last season. Only the 1988 Orioles had a worst start.


Vosler, the first player other than Joey Votto to start at first base for the Reds on opening day since 2008, soaked up the moment following his triple. “When I got to third, I’m happy that I had the presence of mind to look around and take a mental picture,” Vosler said. “At the end of the day, it’s special start on opening day. You don’t know how many of these you’re going to get.”


Reds: OF Nick Senzel who had surgery in November to repair a fractured toe on his left foot, will begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Louisville next week. … 1B Joey Votto who underwent left shoulder surgery in August, will begin a Triple-A rehab stint March 31 when Louisville opens its season at Nashville.


Reds LHP Nick Lodolo who went 4-0 with a 2.16 ERA in five spring training starts, will face 43-year-old LHP Rich Hill who’s making his Pirates debut on Saturday.