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Pirates Need Reynolds, Hayes to Break Team-Wide Slump



Ke'Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates

SAN FRANCISCO — If the Pirates are to turn into a good offensive team, it’s hard to imagine Bryan Reynolds and Ke’Bryan Hayes not being big parts of it.

Since making his MLB debut for the Pirates in 2019, Reynolds has become a franchise staple, often a bright light in a dark, 100-loss tunnel.

Hayes debuted during the pandemic-themed season in 2019 and has also become a constant.

Although better known for his Gold Glove-caliber defense at third base, has has shown that he can be one of the team’s best hitters when he’s on.

Through the first month of 2024, the Pirates’ offense has produced pedestrian numbers. The team is tied for 19th in runs scored, and that standing is greatly enhanced by a hot first week of the season where the Pirates averaged seven runs a game. Since that first week, the team has averaged just over three runs.

It’d be unfair to put these struggles squarely on Reynolds and Hayes’ shoulders. For the most part, Reynolds has been at least close to himself, and his 117 OPS+ (100 is the league average) is slightly above the 114 mark he finished with last season.

Hayes’ offensive numbers also haven’t been terrible.

His OPS+ of 102 is only four points below where he finished last season, which was his career best.

But Hayes had yet to hit a home run through almost a full month of play, and coming into the 10th inning of Saturday’s game against the Giants in San Francisco, he was 1-for-4 with two strikeouts.

Reynolds had been having a rough series. Friday night, he came up in the seventh and ninth, respectively, with the bases loaded in a 0-0 game.

He struck out the first time, grounded into a double play the second time and the Pirates ended up losing on a walk-off.

With the score tied at 1 in the 10th, Reynolds knew another walk-off was possible, and knew he had a chance to do something about it.

With Alika Williams starting the inning as the runner on second, Reynolds faced former All-Star reliever Taylor Rogers with one out.

He drove a first-pitch sweeper over the left field wall to put the Pirates ahead, 3-1.

For Reynolds, it was much needed.

“Yeah, it was good,” he told reporters after the game. “Slow game (offensively) yesterday, slow first part of the game today, so to break out in the tenth, it felt good.”

“It was really good,” manager Derek Shelton said, “because yesterday he had some opportunities that he didn’t capitalize on, but were talking about a really good hitter here. If we continue to get him in those opportunities, then he’s gonna cash in on them.”

Next up was Hayes.

Hayes drove the second pitch out to make it 4-1 and give the Pirates insurance that would prove to be needed because the Giants scored twice in the bottom half before David Bednar regrouped to close out a 4-3 win.

Was it a relief for Hayes to get his first one out of the way?

“A little bit,” he said. “Just more importantly, getting the win was great. B hitting the two-run bomb really kind of felt like the last two games had been going, felt like we had a really good cushion once he hit that two-run homer and then I was able to follow it up. Felt good to put a really good swing on it.”

For Shelton, it was– no pun intended– key for Hayes to check of the box of hitting his first home run of 2024.

“We had some better swings and Key had a good swing,” Shelton said. “It was good to see Rowdy have some good swings today, which was important, but for him to check that box off with a homer is something that’s important.”

So could the Pirate offense’s last half inning of Saturday night be crucial for better days ahead?

“Yeah, it’s going to be a good momentum-wise,” Reynolds said. “Maybe just build off that and score some runs before the 10th, to be honest. So, that’d be good.”

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