Pirate SS O’Neill Cruise set another Statcast record at 117.5 mph at Brewers.

Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz celebrates his double home run with Josh Van Meter in the second inning against the Brewers on Thursday, June 30, 2022, at PNC Park.

     Oneil Cruz signaled just how hard he was swinging from the start against the Milwaukee Brewers on Monday night when he hit a front line drive over second baseman Colton Wong.

     The 6-foot-7, 220-pound Pittsburgh Pirates rookie shortstop recorded a second exit velocity of 113.8 mph, just a fraction of a tick.  His pitch at third base in the third inning was 113.2 mph.  At the time, they were two of the hardest hits in the game.

     Pirates manager Derek Shelton said on AT&T Sportsnet’s postgame show that he didn’t have control of the ball when he caught it.  “If he hits the ball with that speed and that hard, he’s going to be well placed.”

     Cruz put himself ahead of all the Pirates when he hit a Corbin Burns cutter 437 feet into the second deck of right field at American Family Field in the fifth inning.  -5 runs loss.

The home run was recorded with an exit velocity of 117.5 mph, the hardest ball hit by a Pirates player in the Statcast era.  According to ESPN, Cruz now has eight of the best four shots by a Pirates player since Statcast began tracking those numbers in 2015.

       The other three went for singles, including his first major league hit at 118.2 mph, his second earlier this season at 118.4 and a 122.4 mph hit off Clement Wall on August 24 against Atlanta. 

What Cruz did against 2021 NL Cy Young Award winner Corbin Burns further impressed him.  Six of his 11 home runs came against the Brewers and two against the Burns.

     That tied Cruz with big hitters Roberto Clemente, Manny Sanguilon and Willie Stargell as one of the reigning Cy Young winners who hit multiple home runs in a season.  Clemente hit two against Bob Gibson in 1969, three against Ferguson Jenkins in 1972, and Sanguilon and Stargell both hit a pair against Steve Carlton in 1973.

Cruz now owns three of the top nine hits against Burns — all coming in the same game — so it’s no surprise that Shelton “helped” Cruz with his approach to home plate.  A record exit speed is an indication that the cruiser is making hard contact, which usually produces good results.

     “It’s something we can hang our hats on when guys are hitting good shots and hitting the ball hard,” Shelton said.  “That’s a really good thing. Now if he hits a 113 line drive or a fly ball on the ground to the right of the second baseman, we just have to keep going. We’re definitely making progress with him. All night.  With good swings.”

Six of the Cruzes’ 11 home games this season have featured the Brewers, including back-to-back games at PNC Park on June 30 and July 2 and August 2 and 3.  The fact that more than half of his home runs have come against NL Premier League opponents is an indication that Cruz enjoys hitting the Brewers.

     “I think there are players that do a little better against certain teams, and I do a lot better against this team,” Cruz said.  “My attitude is always to go out there and work hard and do whatever it takes to help the team win. I feel good against this team.”

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