PITTSBURGH. Nobody really knew what to do.
Michael Chavis just hit in the 10th inning, ending a fantastic three-inning stretch in which he hit a high-scoring homer in the 8th and kept the tie in the 10th with great defensive play. The PNC Park crowd, which had witnessed the Pirates lose a four-round lead only to emerge 8–7 winners, began to explode. But Ke’Bryan Hayes lay on his stomach on a home plate; he scored the winning streak, but to do so he crashed his left shoulder into catcher Wilson Contreras.
The whole scene was completely weird. Fireworks were set off in the background as Hayes was judged by the coaches. Under normal circumstances, Chavis would have been attacked by teammates. Most likely, during a TV interview, he was doused with a sports drink. He got some bittersweet fives this Thursday afternoon. There were all the reasons and no reasons for celebration at the same time.
“There have been a few layoffs in my career,” Chavis said. “I’m not sure I’ve ever had an awkward walk. They are usually quite festive. It was definitely one of the most in-between options.”
Manager Derek Shelton added, “I think it’s gone from being enthusiastic for a walk to about the kind of crowd silence you can get for a walk.”
Hayes was able to leave the field under his own power after the game, but his status remains to be determined. Shelton said after the game that Hayes was being examined but appeared to be in better condition than immediately after the collision. When asked about Contreras’ positioning, Shelton said he did not believe in malice on the part of the defender.
“This is a frontier game. I don’t think there’s anything dirty in there,” Shelton said. “It was an aggressive baseball game. It was Ke’s aggressive slide. I don’t think there was any intention in this play.”
While Hayes sliding head first into home plate ended up winning the game, Shelton said he would have preferred his players to take a safer approach.
“If I vote, I will vote for him not to slide upside down on the plate,” Shelton said.
Even amid the awkwardness and uncertainty, the Pirates had a victory they could celebrate to crown the homeland they had won – a victory in which dramaturgy did not initially seem necessary.
The Pirates looked like they had a comfortable win. They led 6-2 through seven innings. Hayes and Brian Reynolds hit home runs for the first time in the same game. Oneil Cruz contributed on both sides of the ball. José Quintana threw six innings with two runs. The Bux sailed.
The Cubs then hit the Pirates with five figures in the eighth inning. Patrick Wisdom drove with a single run. Nico Hoerner drove two runs with one that bounced off Cruz’s glove and the buddy appeared to be in range. Alfonso Rivas delivered the finishing blow with a good double single. The fans were stunned, all writhing together as Bucco released the leash through his fingers.
The moans quickly turned into screams.
On the first pitch of the eighth inning, Chavis hit a game-tying solo home run that never stopped. Neither team scored in the ninth inning. Free baseball was on the menu.
The Cubs threatened to take the top ten, but Chavis – who else? — performed the most important defensive game of the day.
With one out and Wisdom on the third, Jason Hayward hit the chopper to the right of Chavis. Wisdom has gone home. In one fluid motion, Chavis hit the ball and fired at catcher Tyler Hyneman, who applied a tag and neutralized the threat. In the bottom half, Chavis got the job done again, this time with a glitch instead of an explosion.
“It was a good climax of about 30 minutes for Michael Chavis,” Shelton said.
The main concern at the moment remains the health of Hayes. After a limited last season, Hayes played the second most games for the Pirates just behind Reynolds. His defense was as elite as ever. For now, the Bucs should be playing a waiting game.