Jun. 4—When Ke’Bryan Hayes was introduced before his first home game of the season, the Pittsburgh Pirates rookie third baseman heard something that was missing when he made his debut last September at PNC Park.
The biggest cheers, however, were directed at Jacob Stallings after he hit a bases-clearing double in the eighth inning to rally the Pirates past the Miami Marlins, 5-3, on Thursday night before 4,192 at PNC Park.
“That’s awesome,” Hayes said of Stallings’ heroics. “I mean, I feel like he puts together some really good at-bats and, as of late, I was saying in the dugout, he’s been really clutch in these moments here lately, so let’s see what happens, and he came through.”
The Pirates (21-34) started their seven-game homestand by snapping a three-game losing streak. Kyle Crick (1-0) earned the win after pitching a scoreless eighth, and Richard Rodriguez picked up his seventh save.
Stallings came to bat with two outs in the eighth, after the Pirates loaded the bases against Marlins reliever Dylan Floro (2-3) when Adam Frazier singled and Bryan Reynolds and Gregory Polanco drew walks. After fouling off three of the first four pitches — with a swing and miss on the second pitch, a sinker — Stallings recovered for a 1-2 count. When Floro threw another sinker, Stallings smacked it to left to score all three runners and turn a one-run deficit into a two-run lead.
“He grinds through at-bats,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “When you extend an at-bat by fouling pitches off, you can yourself an opportunity for a pitcher to make a mistake. He got a mistake, and he hit it hard.”
Added Stallings: “He left one a little over the plate and I was able to stay inside it and get to it. A lot of deception and a lot of sink on that sinker. It was not a comfortable at-bat, but luckily he made a little bit of a mistake and I was able to get to it.”
Stallings stole the spotlight from Hayes, who was playing in his first home game in front of Pirates fans after missing two months with a left hand/wrist injury. When Hayes made his major league debut last September, spectators weren’t permitted to attend because of the covid-19 pandemic so he played in empty stadiums.
Hayes gave Pirates fans reason to cheer. He went 2 for 4 with a single in his first at bat, a triple off the Clemente Wall in the sixth and scored a run. As expected, Hayes also played flawless defense on the hot corner.
“It felt great,” Hayes said. “I was out for what seemed like half a year. I was a month away from a half a year, but just to be back out there with the guys and to be back out there with the fans cheering us on, it was great, and it was also great to get the win.”
The game also marked the first return to PNC Park since being traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks for a pair of 19-year-old prospects in January 2020, Marte received a warm welcome from his former teammates and fans, then scored what proved to be the decisive run in the sixth for the Marlins (24-31).
After shuffling the lineup with frequency in Hayes’ absence, Pirates manager Derek Shelton started Hayes at third base and shifted Erik Gonzalez to first base. Hayes also returned to the No. 2 spot in the batting order, between Adam Frazier and Bryan Reynolds.
In the bottom of the first, Hayes hit a grounder that Jazz Chisholm fielded deep in the hole at shortstop, and beat the throw for his second hit of the season. The first was a two-run home run off Kyle Hendricks in a 5-3 win over the Chicago Cubs on Opening Day at Wrigley Field. Hayes injured his left hand/wrist on a foul ball in the second game of the season, on April 3, and spent 60 days on the injured list.
“It’s awesome to see Key,” Anderson said, “and I think we’re 2-0 when he’s played nine innings, so it’s good to have him back.”
Hayes went from first to third on a Bryan Reynolds single to right field, but both runners were stranded when Marlins starter Elieser Hernandez got Jacob Stallings and Gregory Polanco to strike out looking.
The Marlins took a 1-0 lead in the third, after Jon Berti singled to left, advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Hernandez and scored on a single to left by Chisholm.
Reynolds tied it in the bottom of the fourth, sending a 1-2 fastball 385 feet over the fence in right field. It held up after a 25-second video review to determine whether there was fan interference. It was the fourth home run in seven games and eighth of the season for Reynolds.
“He told me before the game that he feels he’s getting right now are home runs, and I was like, ‘What’s wrong with that?’ He’s like, ‘Well, I guess nothing,'” Stallings said. “It’s been really good to see him get back to who he is. All he’s done his whole life is hit.”
The Marlins increased their lead in the sixth, when Hernandez hit a leadoff single to center, reached third on Marte’s double and scored the go-ahead run on a grounder to third by Jesus Aguilar. On his way home, Hernandez pulled up, fell to the grass with a right quad strain and had to be helped off the field by Marlins manager Don Mattingly. Garrett Cooper singled off Clay Holmes to score Marte for a 3-1 lead.
Hayes answered with a one-out triple off the Clemente Wall in right field, then scored when Chisholm bobbled a Reynolds grounder to short to cut it to 3-2.
The Marlins threatened to stretch that lead in the seventh, when Jorge Alfaro struck out swinging but reached on a wild pitch by Holmes, who walked Isan Diaz. A Berti sacrifice bunt advanced both runners, but lefty Sam Howard got pinch hitter Corey Dickerson to ground out to second and Chisholm to ground out to Hayes who made a diving stop to his left to save a run from scoring. Hayes made another great play in the eighth, when he snagged a 100-mph line drive by Marte at third.
“When Ke’Bryan’s over there, it’s really amazing,” Stallings said. “The half-sliding play he made to his left was unbelievable and was a huge play for us. The guy, he’s just an unbelievable player. Equally as good of a dude, too. He’s an easy guy to root for.”
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .