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Perrotto: Even With Good Moment, Ke’Bryan Hayes Frustrated Again



Ke'Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates

PITTSBURGH – It was a microcosm of Ke’Bryan Hayes’ season on Tuesday night.

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ third baseman had a good moment in a 2-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park. Then he had a bad moment.

That is how it has been for Hayes in 2024. Some good, some bad.

More bad than good, to be accurate.

Hayes is hitting .241/.307/.325 with three home runs in 50 games. While he certainly isn’t the only reason for the Pirates’ offensive problems, he has significantly contributed to them ranking 22nd in the major leagues in runs scored with an average of 4.12 a game.

The Pirates will need to do better if they are to break their nine-year postseason drought this season. Though it’s far too early to be charting pennant races, the Pirates are in contention despite their 35-37 record. They are a one game out of a wild card spot in the jumbled National League standings.

The Pirates know they need to improve their offense. However, don’t expect general manager Ben Cherington to make significant upgrades between now and the July 30 trade deadline.

Cherington still has a rather limited budget and his prospect capital has been lowered by the graduation of prospects like Paul Skenes and Jared Joners to the big leagues. Cherington has also yet to make a splash transaction during his five-year tenure.

The biggest boost to the Pirates’ offense would be more production from within. The list of underachievers this season is long and includes Henry Davis, Rowdy Tellez, Jared Triolo, Michael A. Taylor and Jack Swuinski.

Hayes is also on that list.

The Pirates identified Hayes as a cornerstone player two years ago by signing him to an eight-year, $70-million contract, a significant outlay for a franchise that often does things on the cheap. They need to get more return on their investment.

Hayes has shown he can be an above-average major-league hitter. In the second half of last season, he batted .299/.335/.539 with 10 homers in 49 games.

At 27, Hayes also should be entering the prime of his career.

Tuesday night showed how tantalizing Hayes can be. He hit a home run off Reds left-hander Nick Lodolo, who otherwise mowed through the Pirates’ lineup.

Yet with the Pirates down to their last out, Hayes ended the game in ignominious fashion. He was jammed by a pitch from closer Alexis Diaz and grounded out to the first baseman on a checked swing.

Hayes tried to find solace in hitting his first home run since April 27 but was frustrated after going 1 for 4.

“It felt good,” Hayes said. “Still not, I mean in my head, I just, I mean I’ll take it, but I’m just not where I want to be at the plate, obviously. I mean, it feels good to hit a home run, but I feel like my game, whenever I’m at my best, I’m hitting line drives and then the home runs come,” Hayes said. “It was good. I will take them whenever I can, but just still not happy with where I am at the plate.”

The sooner Hayes can find his form of the second half of 2023, the happier everyone will be in 2024.

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