“Is (Kevin) Newman still alive?” wondered a Bucs Dugout reader in today’s game thread. It was about midway through the game, with the Pirates once again trailing the Minnesota Twins and fan morale flagging.
“He is,” another replied. “The bat, not so much yet.”
Newman may not have started the game, but he finished it in spectacular fashion. Pinch-hitting for JT Riddle in the bottom of the ninth inning, he smacked a single off Twins reliever Taylor Rogers that brought Bryan Reynolds and Cole Tucker (pinch-running for Colin Moran) home to seal a 6-5 Bucs victory at PNC Park.
In his first major league start, JT Brubaker fell into the same rut that other Pirates starters have, namely giving up a single, a walk, then a three-run homer to Miguel Sano in the first inning to give the Twins an immediate lead. After that, though, he settled down, getting through three innings total with just the three runs, four total hits, three walks and two strikeouts. Cody Ponce wasn’t so lucky, dealing homers to Byron Buxton in the fourth inning and Eddie Rosario in the fifth, thankfully with no baserunners.
But there was Bucs offense early. After Reynolds and Moran both singled in the second inning, Gregory Polanco slammed a Kenta Maeda curveball over the right field wall and into the Allegheny River to tie the game at three. That was all that the Pirates got off Maeda, who went six innings with the three runs, three hits, one walk and 4 Ks. Chris Stratton held things down for the Pirates after Ponce came out, as did Tyler Clippard for the Twins in relief of Maeda. Sergio Romo (yes, that Sergio Romo) came into the eighth inning and promptly walked Jarrod Dyson. Dyson decided to make things exciting, stealing not only second base but third base as well, then scoring on a Phillip Evans groundout to bring the Bucs to within one run. Meanwhile, Sam Howard had gotten out of a small Stratton-induced jam in the eighth and avoided his own trouble in the top of the ninth with a Jorge Polanco forceout after a single.
Then came the bottom of the ninth, and the Pirates’ bats stirred once more. Moran singled, and Derek Shelton wisely put speedy Tucker in his place. Reynolds doubled, but Polanco struck out, so a Seinfeld moment arrived—hello, Newman. All it took was a bouncy single up the middle, and ... victory!
Howard snagged his first major league win, Newman took a masked ice water celebratory bath on camera, and the Jolly Roger is once again raised over PNC. We’ll take it.