Ke’Bryan Hayes had a glaring omission on his statistics line, a big, fat zero under home runs that followed the Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman through the first 40 games of the season.
His first came at the perfect time.
Trailing by a run with one out in the top of the ninth, Hayes hit a three-run shot to dead center field to boost the Pirates to a 4-2 comeback win over the San Diego Padres before 38,189 Saturday night at Petco Park.
The ending was as inexplicable as it was exciting.
Hayes had made 173 plate appearances without a homer, only to become the first player this season to homer off Padres closer Taylor Rogers, who earned his National League-leading 17th save in Friday’s 4-3 win.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “You see a lot of strange things that happen in this game. But he took good swings all night. He got a ball up and hit it to deepest part of the ballpark on a night when the ball wasn’t really flying.”
It was the first time Hayes had faced Rogers, who entered the ninth inning trying to protect a 2-1 lead. Rogers gave up a leadoff double to pinch hitter Diego Castillo and walked Tucupita Marcano to start the ninth before striking out Cal Mitchell. Hayes came to bat looking for a ball up and over the plate. When Rogers threw an 0-1 slider, Hayes crushed it 407 feet to center for a two-run lead.
“I think that slider backed up on him and it stayed middle of the plate,” Hayes said, “and I was able to put a good swing on it.”
Hayes’ heroics provided the perfect elixir for the Pirates, who already looked like the walking wounded when another starter left the game Saturday night in San Diego. Ben Gamel exited in the eighth inning after he grabbed his left hamstring while stealing second base, putting the Pirates in a precarious spot with position players.
They have lost catcher Roberto Perez to season-ending surgery on his left hamstring, shortstop Kevin Newman (hamstring) to the 60-day IL and designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach (hamstring) and first baseman Yoshi Tsutsugo (lumbar muscle strain) to the 10- day IL this month.
That forced Shelton to start six players, including four rookies, who weren’t on their Opening Day roster against the Padres. More moves could be on the way if Gamel’s injury is serious. The domino effect of the injuries cost the Pirates in 4-3 loss Friday night, as Josh VanMeter’s error at first base provided pivotal when Luke Voit hit a three-run home run.
The Padres took advantage of another mishap at first in the second inning Saturday. This time, VanMeter backhanded a Jake Cronenworth grounder and flipped it to JT Brubaker, but the ball bounced off the right-hander’s closed glove. Wil Myers singled to advance Cronenworth to third, and he scored on Austin Nola’s sacrifice fly to right field for a 1-0 Padres lead. Brubaker walked Trent Grirsham and Jurickson Profar to load the bases, but got Ha-Seong Kim swinging to escape the jam.
Padres right-hander Joe Musgrove, dealt to San Diego by the Pirates in January 2021, got into a tough spot in the top of the third. Mitchell hit a two-out single to left, Hayes followed with a single down the right field line and Bryan Reynolds drew a walk to load the bases. Musgrove escaped by getting Gamel to ground out to short.
Gamel made a spectacular catch in left field to rob Eric Hosmer of a home run in the bottom of the third, backpedaling toward the fence and timing his leap to reach over and grab the 367-foot liner.
The Pirates tied it at 1-1 in the top of the fourth, when VanMeter and Jack Suwinski singled to put runners on first and third. Michael Perez, who was hitless in 14 at bats, sat a dribbler down the first base line to score VanMeter. Musgrove fielded it and threw home to Nola, whose errant throw hit Perez. Moments later, Perez became the first Pirates catcher to steal a base since Francisco Cervell in 2019.
Brubaker went pitch for pitch with Musgrove, who entered with a 5-0 record and NL-leading 1.50 ERA. Both allowed one run on six hits and two walks. Where Brubaker had three strikeouts while throwing 60 of his 96 pitches for strikes in five innings, Musgrove struck out seven while throwing 65 of his 96 pitches for strikes.
“Just playing with him, I saw the type of competitive edge he had on the mound,” Brubaker said. “To be able to compete with him, I had a blast. It was fun. We made him throw a lot of pitches; they made me throw a lot of pitches. It was just a pitching duel. It was awesome to be apart of.”
Lefty Dillon Peters replaced Brubaker and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the sixth, when he got Kim to hit an infield fly to Hayes at third and struck out Hosmer to end the inning.
Voit drew a leadoff walk in the seventh and advanced to second when Cronenworth’s comebacker hit Peters in the face. Peters recovered for the putout but the play prompted his exit from him. Chris Stratton gave up a single to right field by Trent Grisham, and Voit beat Mitchell’s throw to the plate for a 2-1 Padres edge.
The Padres recorded six consecutive strikeouts at one point, two by Musgrove, three by Robert Suarez in the seventh and one by Luis Garcia to start the eighth. Gamel drew a walk but injured his left hamstring while stealing second base and was removed from the game and replaced by Chavis, who is dealing with a left forearm injury.
After the Pirates won a challenge that Rodolfo Castro was hit by a pitch, they had runners on first and second with two outs, but Suwinski struck out swinging to end the rally.
The Padres failed to pull away in the eighth, when Pirates left and Anthony Banda gave up a double to Kim, intentionally walked Voit and loaded the bases on a single by Cronenworth. But Banda recovered to get Myers looking at a called third strike for the final out. San Diego stranded 16 runners.
“Peters got out of a jam, Banda got out of a jam,” Shelton said, “and they gave us a chance to win the game.”
Castillo pinch-hit for Perez and led off the ninth with a double and Marcano followed with a walk. After Mitchell struck out swinging, Hayes finally got his first homer of the season. For a fitting ending, David Bednar — part of the return package in the Musgrove trade — retired the Padres in a 1-2-3 ninth for his ninth save.
“I think it wears on anybody because they have that burning desire as a competitor,” Shelton said of Hayes’ homerless stretch. “Even though we’ve talked about numerous balls that he hit hard… it was nice for him to get it in a big moment.
“Any time you check a box and get that off, it probably relieves a little bit of pressure on you, whether it’s subconscious or not. He’s probably going to breathe a little easier, he might sleep a little easier. ”
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .