VanMeter fights as emergency catcher, Reds-Pirates split by doubleheader

CINCINATION (AP) – Josh VanMeter had only one thought when he suddenly realized that the Pittsburgh Pirate needed him as a catcher.

“Pure panic,” he said.

Forced into an emergency role, VanMeter had a tough time on Saturday when he moved from second base for his first attempt behind the stove since he was a teenager. The Cincinnati Reds took the lead to end a nine-game streak, beating the Pirates 9-2 for the first time in a doubleheader.

In the night’s match Ke’Brian Hayes scored Homer twice, and Yoshi Tsutsuga and Diego Castilla held home runs ahead when Pittsburgh won 8-5.

VanMeter did not play in the second game after changing positions in the first game.

“It’s part of the job. They asked me to do it, and I did it to the best of my ability. I didn’t feel so bad there,” VanMeter said.

“I hope I don’t have to do that anymore,” he added.

Tyler Stevenson brutally bounced off the VanMeter mask and then in the eighth inning scored a double in a tie-break loaded with bases, leading to an explosion with seven wounds.

Pirates’ starting catcher Roberto Perez received help from the field due to an injury to his left hamstring after a fall during the rounding of the second base at the top of the eighth part of the start. Reserve catcher Andrew Napp was thrown out by Judge Will Little at the bottom of the sixth for twittering from the dugout.

This left VanMeter the next best option for the Pirates, so he changed his infielder’s glove to a catcher’s gauntlet.

It’s also been a while for a player who is listed as an outfielder from second base.

“I think it was when I was 14 at a summer ball, but they didn’t throw so hard and their stuff didn’t move that way,” he said.

VanMeter quickly assembled the equipment he needed. He grabbed Knapp’s outfit, but eventually took advantage of Perez’s glove.

“It’s part of the game. They needed someone to get stronger,” he said.

The 27-year-old VanMeter, who began his career in Cincinnati in 2019 and is spending his first season with the Pirates, has taken his new spot to start eighth. He also showed how hard it is to be a catcher, even for a professional who has mostly played on diamonds.

Working with a new, inexperienced battery mate, Will Crow (1-2) hit Drury with a step and led Tommy Fem and Mike Mustakas to start eighth without an exit and with a score of 2.

VanMeter tried to drive into the range of fast sinkers and Crow sliders. Pirates do not use the electronic alarm system used by some other teams.

“We couldn’t get to one page, but I’m proud of how I caught it,” he said.

Stevenson stepped up and fouled on the first step directly back. VanMeter took off his mask for a moment to recover, and Little went to the mound to give Blood a new ball, giving the new catcher a rest.

“I really didn’t feel it,” VanMeter said. “Actually, my legs hurt from squats.”

Stevenson, Cincinnati Catcher, and VanMeter shared a few words in between.

With a score of 0-2 VanMeter hit three straight sliders near the zone, but did not receive any of the calls – perhaps his obvious lack of experience in the design of the pitch cost the Pirates.

“I feel a little lucky with VanMeter there,” Stevenson said. “The blood actually made some good margins at the bottom of the area that I took. Going back to see they could be there.”

“He did well for someone because he never did. I know Josh well. When I approached the strike, I told him he had to take it to arbitration to get a little more,” he said.

Next, Stevenson ran into the line of the right line of the field, which dodged the diving Ben Gamela and rolled back to the wall for two runs. It was Stevenson’s third hit of the day and gave him four WRCs that entered his career.

Kyle Farmer added a sacrificial fly before Tyler Naquin rode in three doubles races. Only three wounds were healed after pitcher Bo Sulser made a mistake.

“To his credit, he did a good job. It’s not easy, and Blood is not easy to catch,” said Pirates manager Derek Shelton.

“It’s really a pity for him because he had to change the game plan. (VanMeter) did a great job,” he said.

Knapp took most of the blame for leaving VanMeter in that position. Knapp was not involved in the game when he was thrown for arguing chess from the bench.

“It’s up to me. I have to have a colder head. It was a stupid mistake,” he said.

Watching from the clubhouse when Perez was injured, Knapp knew it meant problems for Pittsburgh.

“It’s a terrible feeling. It’s terrible. It shouldn’t happen. I should be smarter than that. I’ve never been thrown into the major leagues,” he said.

The Pirates put Perez on the list of injured 10 days after the game with tension in the left hamstring. They chose a contract with catcher Michael Perez of Triple-A Indianapolis.

The Reds showed their highest result of the season and won for the first time since beating St. Louis 4-1 on April 24. Lucas Sims (1-0) won.

Brandon Drury made a homer, doubled up and rode in four races for the Reds in the nightcap.

Heath Hembry (2-0) won with relief, and David Bednar received a fourth save. Philip Dill (0-1) lost with relief.


Sean Miller, coach of NIT champion Xavier Musketeers, threw a ceremonial first serve to his cousin, Reds OF TJ Friedl, before the second game.

Coaching room

Reds: LHP Nick Ladola, who was expected to come out of a 10-day injury lost to start Saturday’s double-header game, received a scratch with the return of lower back pain.


Pirates: RHP Zach Thompson (1-3, 9.39), who has lost each of the last three starts, was scheduled to start Pittsburgh in the series final on Sunday.

Reds: RHP Tyler Male (1-4, 7.01) is trying to interrupt a series of three starts.

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