Pirates’ Oneil Cruz out at least four months with broken ankle

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Pirates will have to see if they can keep their hot start going without Oneil Cruz. The 6-foot-7 shortstop had surgery to repair a fractured left ankle and is out at least four months.

Cruz’s left leg bent awkwardly underneath him as he tried to score from third on a chopper in the sixth inning of Sunday’s 1-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox. Cruz opted to slide late and collided with the legs of White Sox catcher Seby Zavala, causing Cruz’s leg to fold up underneath him as his momentum carried the rest of his body across the plate.

While the Pirates believe Cruz will be able to return by mid-August, manager Derek Shelton stressed he’s more concerned about Cruz’s health and state of mind. Shelton added that there was a “sense of relief” that the injury wasn’t worse.

“My solace is in the fact that he’s OK,” Shelton said.

Pittsburgh placed the 24-year-old Cruz on the 10-day injured list and called up utility player Mark Mathias from Triple-A Indianapolis. Rodolfo Castro, who switched from second base to shortstop after Cruz was injured, started for the Pirates Monday when they began a three-game series against the World Series champion Houston Astros.

“I think in the early going (Castro) will get the majority (of the starts),” Shelton said. “We’ll probably see (Ji-Hwan) Bae over there at some point, too, just depending on the matchup and moving guys around or just actual off-days.”

Pittsburgh has won five of six to get to 6-3, the club’s best start since 2018, the last time the Pirates finished with a winning record. Cruz is part of the foundation the franchise is attempting to put in place under general manager Ben Cherington.

Cruz dazzled with his bat,his arm and his legs as a rookie in 2022 and started this season hitting .250 with a home run, four RBIs and three stolen bases. He also drew seven walks in nine games after earning just 28 walks in 87 games a year ago.

“(His absence) affects a lot, just the range that he has and the presence he has on the field, the guy he is, the leadoff hitter and how he runs the bases, all of that,” Pirates third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes said. “He impacts the game in a lot of different ways just by being on the field so it’s definitely a big blow.”

Pittsburgh believes it will be better able to cope with that blow thanks to an offseason influx of experienced players, including outfielder Andrew McCutchen and first baseman/designated hitter Carlos Santana.

“Nobody is ever going to have a team that doesn’t suffer any type of setback,” outfielder Bryan Reynolds said. “It’s all going to come down to how we respond to it. We have a good veteran group. We’ve got young guys that are focused, too. … I think we’ll be able to handle it.”

Nationals blow 6-run lead, rebound to beat Phillies 8-7

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WASHINGTON (AP) Lane Thomas singled in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals sent the Philadelphia Phillies to their fifth straight loss, winning 8-7 after blowing a six-run lead.

The defending NL champion Phillies have just five victories in their last 18 games and are tied with the Nationals at the bottom of the NL East at 25-32.

“We’ve got to overcome it,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said. “We’ve got to play better, get consistent in all phases and keep moving forward.”

Alex Call drew a two-out walk against Connor Brogdon (2-1) in the eighth, stole second on a low pitch that catcher JT Realmuto couldn’t make a throw on and scored on Thomas’ single to right center.

“The way Lane’s swinging the bat, if you can get on second base, we can win the game,” Call said. “I look over and the ball’s in the dirt, he doesn’t catch it. Now I’m saying: ‘All right, Lane. Come on!’”

Kyle Finnegan (3-2) pitched 1 2/3 innings for the victory, stranding the tying run on second in the ninth.

Nick Castellanos homered twice, singled, doubled and drove in five runs for Philadelphia, which had scored just three runs in its past three games.

“There’s definitely a lot of positives as a group,” Castellanos said. “Showing some fight. It would have been really, really easy to lay down and allow the way the game started to be the way that it finished.”

Down 7-1 after four innings, Philadelphia tied it at 7 in the eighth. Brandon Marsh worked a nine-pitch walk against Mason Thompson leading off, and Drew Ellis singled with one out. Finnegan came on to face Kyle Schwarber, who hit a ground ball up the middle. Shortstop CJ Abrams fielded it behind it behind second base, touched second for one out, but threw wildly to first and Marsh came home with the tying run.

Castellanos’s second homer, a two-run shot to center in the sixth, pulled the Phillies to 7-3 and Marsh added an RBI single in the inning.

In the seventh, Schwarber doubled with one out and Bryson Scott reached on an infield single. Hunter Harvey came on and walked Bryce Harper to load the bases. Castellanos singled to center scoring two runs to make it 7-6.

Luis Garcia homered and Jeimer Candelario doubled twice and drove in three runs for the Nationals, who have won seven of 12.

Philadelphia starter Zack Wheeler, coming off eight shutout innings against Atlanta, allowed seven runs on eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.

“This one’s on me really,” Wheeler said. “Guys battled back. Just couldn’t finish it out. We know who we have in this room and what we’ve got to do.”

Josiah Gray gave up four runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings for Washington.

Candelario doubled just beyond the reach of left fielder Schwarber to drive in the first of Washington’s two runs in the first.

In the second, Abrams hit a one-out drive to deep center that Marsh misplayed into a double. With two outs and two on, Candelario doubled off the wall in right center to make it 5-0.

Garcia ended Wheeler’s night with a solo homer in the fourth.

“When you come out the way we did, you’ve got to tack on,” Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. “It didn’t happen tonight, but we got one more than the other guys.”


Candelario is 9 for 26 (.346) with four doubles, a home run, nine RBIs, five walks, and seven runs scored in his last seven games.


Phillies: Thomson said RHP Taijuan Walker played catch Friday and there are “no worries about his next start.” In a four-inning outing against the Mets on Thursday, Walker’s sinker velocity averaged 90.6 mph, down from 92.7 mph for the season. His fastball, splitter and curveball velocity also dropped.

Nationals: OF Victor Robles (back spasms) took batting practice on the field for the first time since going on the injured list. … LHP Sean Doolittle (elbow) gave up a run on two hits and struck out two batters in 2/3 of an inning working his second straight night for Class A Fredericksburg.


Phillies: LHP Matt Strahm (4-3, 3.20) will start a bullpen game on Saturday.

Nationals: LHP MacKenzie Gore (3-3, 3.57) went seven innings and struck out a career-high 11 batters in his previous outing – a no decision against the Royals.

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