Pirates’ Oneil Cruz fractures left ankle vs. White Sox, out indefinitely

Pittsburgh Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz is out indefinitely after fracturing his left ankle in a collision at home plate in the sixth inning of Sunday’s 1-0 victory over the Chicago White Sox.

Cruz was attempting to score from third on a chopper by Ke’Bryan Hayes when Cruz’s leg bent awkwardly beneath him while attempting a late slide. Cruz’s leg appeared to collide with the legs of catcher Seby Zavala, who easily tagged out Cruz.

The 6-foot-7 Cruz writhed in pain on the ground for several minutes while tempers briefly flared. Pittsburgh designated hitter Carlos Santana appeared to take exception to Zavala’s behavior, shoving the catcher shortly after the play ended, leading to both benches and bullpens briefly clearing.

No punches were thrown, and no players were ejected, as order was quickly restored. Cruz eventually made his way to his feet and was helped to the dugout by several members of Pittsburgh’s support staff.

Zavala didn’t like how late Cruz decided to slide and mentioned it to Santana, leading to a brief escalation.

“I was just talking to Santana about it,” Zavala said. “He didn’t like what I said, he said something I didn’t like. That’s what happened. I think in a couple of days everybody will forget about it.”

Cruz’s absence will be a significant blow for a team that is off to a 6-3 start.

“It’s a tough blow for sure for the team,” Pittsburgh outfielder Andrew McCutchen said. “But injuries do happen, and it’s part of the game sometimes, unfortunately. It’s got to be a ‘next man up’ mentality and that’s what we have to have. We’ve got to keep going, keep pushing forward.”

Cruz made his way to his feet and was helped to the bench by several members of the Pittsburgh athletic training staff. The 24-year-old had walked leading off the inning to extend his on-base streak to 19 games, the third-longest active streak in the majors.

Rodolfo Castro moved from second base to shortstop after Cruz exited, with Ji Hwan Bae replacing Castro at second.

“Obviously losing Oneil is a blow because he’s a big part of what we do on both sides of the ball,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. “The flip side of that, because of the depth we’ve created over the last couple (of) years we’re probably in a better spot to handle it than we have been previously.”

Pittsburgh continues a six-game home stand Monday when reigning World Series champion Houston visits.

Johan 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.

Reporting by The Associated Press.

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