PITTSBURGH – Johan Oviedo outdueled Michael Kopech to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates past the Chicago White Sox 1-0 on Sunday.
Oviedo (1-0) allowed five hits – all singles – and struck out five in 6 2/3 innings as the Pirates won for the fifth time in six games. Dauri Moreta struck out Yasmani Grandal with a runner on second to end the seventh after coming on for Oviedo. David Bednar worked around a two-out single by Gavin Sheets in the ninth for his fourth save.
Canaan Smith-Njigba tripled in the second and scored on Jack Suwinski‘s sacrifice fly to produce the game’s only run.
Pittsburgh improved to 6-3 but may have lost shortstop Oneil Cruz. The 6-foot-7 Cruz injured his left leg in a home-plate collision with Chicago catcher Seby Zavala in the sixth inning.
Cruz was attempting to score from third on a chopper by teammate Ke'Bryan Hayes when Cruz’s leg bent awkwardly underneath him as he tried to make a late slide under Zavala’s tag.
The 24-year-old Cruz lay on the ground for several minutes while tempers briefly flared. Pittsburgh designated hitter Carlos Santana shoved the catcher shortly after the play ended, leading to both benches and bullpens briefly clearing.
No punches were thrown and no players were ejected. Cruz eventually made his way to his feet and was helped to the dugout by several members of Pittsburgh’s support staff. There was no immediate update on the extent of Cruz’s injury.
Oviedo, moved into the starting rotation when J.T. Brubaker injured his right elbow near the end of spring training, dazzled in arguably his best start since Pittsburgh acquired him last summer in a trade that sent veteran left-hander José Quintana to the Cardinals.
Oviedo’s only trouble spot came in the fifth when a pair of singles and a stolen base put runners in scoring position with one out. Oviedo got ahead of Elvis Andrus 0-2 then hit Andrus with an inside pitch. Umpires ruled Andrus swung, meaning he was not awarded first base. Andrus flew out to end the threat.
Oviedo’s day included a slick between-the-legs snag of a sharp grounder by Tim Anderson leading off the sixth.
He was removed with two outs in the sixth after Gavin Sheets led off the inning and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Óscar Colás. Chicago inserted Grandal as a pinch-hitter. The Pirates then turned to Moreta, who fanned Grandal with a changeup to end the inning.
Kopech was just as crisp as Oviedo, a positive sign for a staff that entered Sunday with a 7.38 ERA, the worst in the majors. The right-hander gave up just two hits in six innings with three walks and five strikeouts.
Pirates: RHP Vince Velasquez will make his next scheduled start barring a setback. Velasquez rolled his left ankle in the third inning of an 11-5 loss on Saturday night. … Pittsburgh GM Ben Cherington said the right elbow of RHP prospect Mike Burrows appears stable. Burrows left Saturday’s game for Triple-A Indianapolis with right forearm discomfort.
White Sox: Travel to Minnesota to start a three-game set on Monday. Dylan Cease (1-0, 1.59 ERA) faces Kenta Maeda (0-1, 1.80).
Pirates: Welcome reigning World Series champion Houston to PNC Park on Monday. Roansy Contreras (1-0, 1.59 ERA) pitches for Pittsburgh against Houston’s Framber Valdez (0-1, 1.50).