VanMeter the Pirates fights as catcher, Reds finish 9-game sled

CINCINNATI – Pittsburgh contingency catcher Josh VanMeter had a rough time on his first try behind the plate since he was a teenager and the Cincinnati Reds took advantage to end a nine-game losing streak by beating the Pirates in Saturday’s opener at 9 : 2 defeated Doppelkopf.

Tyler Stephenson fouled a ball hard on VanMeter’s mask and then hit a tie-heavy base double in the eighth inning that set off a seven-run burst.

Pirates starting catcher Roberto Pérez was helped off the field with a left hamstring injury after falling while round second base on top of eighth. Backup catcher Andrew Knapp had been ejected by plate umpire Will Little at the end of sixth place for chirping from the dugout.

That left VanMeter as the Pirates’ next best option on the plate — recently the second baseman/outfielder recalled the last time he caught was when he was 14 or 15 years old.

The 27-year-old VanMeter, who started his career with Cincinnati in 2019 and is in his freshman season with the Pirates, switched from second base behind plate to start eighth and did his best. He also showed how hard it is to be a looker, even for a pro who has played almost everywhere on the diamond.


Working with a new, inexperienced batterymate, Wil Crowe (1-2) beat Brandon Drury with a pitch, leading Tommy Pham and Mike Moustakas to an eighth start with no outs and the result 2-all.

Stephenson stepped forward and fouled the first pitch right back. VanMeter removed his mask for a moment to recover, and Little headed to the mound to hand Crowe a new ball and give the new catcher a break. Meanwhile, Stephenson, the Cincinnati catcher, and VanMeter shared a few words.

Counting 0-2, VanMeter stabbed three straight sliders near the zone but received none of the calls – perhaps his apparent lack of pitch-framing experience cost the Pirates.

Stephenson followed by hitting a line drive down the right field line that evaded a diving Ben Gamel and rolled into the wall for two runs. It was Stephenson’s third hit of the day and earned him a career-high four RBIs.

Kyle Farmer added a sacrificial fly before Tyler Naquin drove with a bases-loaded double in three runs. Only three of the runs were earned after pitcher Beau Sulser’s error.


The Reds posted their highest mileage of the season, winning for the first time since beating St. Louis 4-1 on April 24. Cincinnati still has the worst record in baseball at 4:22.

Pittsburgh filled the bases with nobody in game eight against Lucas Sims (1-0), rebounding to beat 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 doubleheader was the second in four days for the Pirates, who shared a twinbill in Detroit on Wednesday.

The announced first game turnout of 9,267 was Cincinnati’s second-lowest of the season at home, just short of the 9,192 available for an 8-5 loss to San Diego on April 27.

Pirates starter JT Brubaker tied his single-game career to nine strikeouts in five innings. The Reds reached Brubaker for three hits and two runs with two walks.

In his second appearance and start for the Reds since rising from Triple-A Louisville and his first career appearance against his former team, Reds right-hander Connor Overton didn’t hit anyone on foot while scoring six hits and two runs with four strikeouts in 5 2 allowed -3 innings.



Reds: LHP Nick Lodolo, who was expected to come through the 10-day injury to start the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader, has been scratched by the return of lower back pain.


Pirates: RHP Zach Thompson (1-3, 9.39), who has lost every one of his last three starts, was Pittsburgh’s scheduled starter for Sunday’s series finale.

Reds: RHP Tyler Mahle (1-4, 1/7) is scheduled to try to break his three-start losing streak on Sunday.


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Nate Jones

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