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Why a Four-Strikeout Game May Have Saved Ke’Bryan Hayes’ Season

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Ke'Bryan Hayes, Pittsburgh Pirates

PITTSBURGH — On May 28 against the Seattle Mariners, Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes hit a low point.

Hayes went 0 for 5 and struck out four times, dropping his season average to .221 and his OPS to .618 as he offensive woes continued.

Since the calendar flipped to June, it’s been a completely different story at the plate for the 26-year-old, and it was on full display in the Pirates’ win on Friday night.

The Pirates erupted for 14 runs and Hayes was a key — no pun intended — reason as to why. He finished the night 5 for 5 with two doubles, four RBIs, and three runs scored. It marked the second time in his career that he finished a game 5 for 5.

“He was on time today, and he’s been on time for the last six or seven days. I think it goes back to when you put in the work and you get yourself in a good spot, you’re going to have good ABs,” said manager Derek Shelton.

His five-hit night extended his hitting streak to a season-high eight games, two games shy of his career-best set in 2021.

What has led to Hayes’ recent breakout at the plate? A simple adjustment. Hayes has started to use the toe-tap in his load. It’s something he’s experienced with before but didn’t like it all too much. After trying it again, it looks like it’s here to stay.

“I just didn’t really like where I was at. Really the day I struck out four times, first time I ever did that in my life,” Hayes said. “So I was like, ‘Something’s got to change’ like what I’m doing isn’t working.’ So [Andy Haines] had said ‘do you want to try it again’ and I was like ‘yeah, why not?'”

It sure has paid off. During his eight-game hitting streak, Hayes is hitting .559 (19 for 34) and ahs recorded multi-hit games in five of those contests.

“[I] just kind of been wanting to be aggressive. Just feel like I’ve been in a better spot as far as being able to read pitches, being behind the ball, having more room for error. So then really just been trying to start early and just swing the bat really. That’s kind of where I’ve been at in my head,” he said.

Everything is clicking of late for Hayes. His defense has always been his calling card and his surehandedness has been prevalent all season long as usual.

No, he won’t hit over .500 like he has been of late for the rest of the season. But, if he is able to continue to produce results with the bat, he will provide the Pirates with not only a spark in the lineup, but a dynamic all-around player.

Hayes is an elite defender. He can run. He is a high baseball IQ. All that was missing was the production at the plate. That might be changing.

Maybe that four-strikeout game was a blessing in disguise for both Hayes and the Pirates.

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