Pirates find ‘key’ to bounce-back game, as Ke’Bryan Hayes leads offensive onslaught against Mets

Tribune Content Agency

PITTSBURGH — As the Pirates searched for ways to dig out of the considerable hole they dug for themselves against the Athletics, dropping two of three to the worst team in baseball earlier this week, they actually turned back time to find a solution.

All the way back to September 2020, when Ke’Bryan Hayes made his MLB debut and swung a heavy stick, spraying the ball to all fields with power and teasing at his offensive potential.

It’s been tough sledding the past couple of years at the plate, but Hayes’ ongoing hot streak helped the Pirates to a 14-7 victory against the New York Mets on Friday at PNC Park.

One his team really needed, too, after failing to take care of business earlier this week against last-place Oakland.

Hayes went 5 for 5 with two doubles, four RBIs and three runs scored. The RBI total matched Hayes’ career-high, which was set against the Cardinals last weekend. It also marked his fourth three-hit game in June.

Over his past eight games, Hayes has a hit in every one and is batting .559 (19 for 33) with three doubles, a triple, two home runs and seven RBIs. The Pirates third baseman had a .606 OPS on May 30. It has since skyrocketed up to .734.

But this was hardly just about Hayes. The bottom five in the Pirates’ lineup combined for all 11 RBIs. Jack Suwinski had three hits, including a double and a homer. Two of the hits came against lefties. Josh Palacios collected a pair of hits.

Andrew McCutchen tallied just one, but he’s also at 1,999 for his career, setting up what could be a special Saturday night.

Both touchdowns were needed, too, as the Pirates ceded five runs in the ninth inning, scaring the 29,429 in attendance probably a little more than anyone would’ve liked.

Friday marked the first time this season that each of the Pirates’ nine starters tallied at least one hit in the same game and the seventh time this year they’ve scored 10 or more runs, something the club did just three times last season.

Only the Cubs (8) and Dodgers have as many or more games reaching double digits as the Pirates.

It’s amazing how much better this team can be with Hayes producing in the middle of the order, isn’t it?

The offensive avalanche was more than enough to back Rich Hill, who gave the Pirates seven innings of two-run ball. Not only that, Hill threw 111 pitches against the Mets, the most for an MLB pitcher this season and the most since Luis Castillo threw 123 for Cincinnati on June 28, 2022.

The last time a Pirates pitcher threw 119 or more pitches in a game was James McDonald, who chucked 120 against Minnesota on June 21, 2012. It served as more age-defying work from Hill, who has been such an important part of this team.

It’s the most pitches thrown by a pitcher 43 or older since Tim Wakefield (as a member of the Red Sox) did so at Tampa Bay on June 14, 2011.

On the mound

Finding success against the Mets had been hard for Hill in his 19-year career. He entered this one with a 6.69 ERA in nine games (seven starts) but lowered that number with a fantastic performance.

In his 13th start of the season, Hill worked seven innings and allowed two earned runs on seven hits and one walk. The left-hander struck out four, threw 72 of his 119 pitches for strikes and fooled the Mets enough to rack up 35 combined called strikes and whiffs.

The sole damage against Hill came in predictable fashion: a hanging curve designated hitter Mark Vientos lined into center for a run-scoring single in the second, then another that shortstop Francisco Lindor put over the left-field fence in the third.

At the plate

There’s obviously been no shortage of frustration with Austin Hedges’ offense, the catcher lugging around a .138 average on May 12. However, it has been a little bit better lately, his average up to a whopping .176 prior to Friday’s game.

Hedges actually got things going in this one for the Pirates with his double into the right-field corner in the second inning, barely tucking a 2-1 fastball inside the foul line for his 10th and 11th RBIs this season.

That was one of a couple of underrated plays. Another involves Ji Hwan Bae’s beautiful bunt in the third, which Mets third baseman Eduardo Escobar ultimately threw away. Two runs scored to give the Pirates a 6-2 lead at the time.

Palacios, who had been 9 for 26 (.346) with five RBIs over his past 11 games, followed by pulling a low-and-away curveball through the right side of a drawn-in infield to extend Pittsburgh’s lead to 7-2.

Suwinski and Carlos Santana went back-to-back with homers in the eighth inning. For Santana, it was just his fourth of the season and second since April 8.

Up next

Johan Oviedo will make his fourth career start against the Mets on Saturday. He has a 10.24 ERA in his first three.