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Meadows crushes no-doubter for 1st MLB HR

Bucs No. 2 prospect came close twice in debut; Mercer follows with back-to-back jack
MLB.com

PITTSBURGH -- In his Major League debut on Friday, Austin Meadows launched two fly balls that were knocked down by the wind. On any other night, they might have been home runs.

There was no doubt about Meadows' first big league homer, however. The rookie center fielder ripped a two-run shot to center field off Padres right-hander Jordan Lyles in the sixth inning of Sunday afternoon's 8-5 loss at PNC Park, and shortstop Jordy Mercer followed with a game-tying solo shot to left on Lyles' next pitch.

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PITTSBURGH -- In his Major League debut on Friday, Austin Meadows launched two fly balls that were knocked down by the wind. On any other night, they might have been home runs.

There was no doubt about Meadows' first big league homer, however. The rookie center fielder ripped a two-run shot to center field off Padres right-hander Jordan Lyles in the sixth inning of Sunday afternoon's 8-5 loss at PNC Park, and shortstop Jordy Mercer followed with a game-tying solo shot to left on Lyles' next pitch.

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Video: Mercer's solo shot to left

"I knew I had it, I mean I hit it well," Meadows said. "I knew it was going to go out just by the way it was carrying. Just a lot of emotions running around the bases and hearing the fans cheer. It was a special moment."

As he recalled after the game, Mercer is no stranger to following up a rookie's first home run with a homer of his own.

"It was cool for me because I hit a back-to-back with Josh Bell as well," Mercer said, referring to his homer directly after Bell's first career home run -- a grand slam off Adam Warren and the Chicago Cubs -- on July 9, 2016. "As soon as I got back to the dugout, I just wanted to congratulate [Meadows] because it's all about him. But yeah, it was cool to see."

Video: CHC@PIT: Bell, Mercer go back-to-back in the 5th

General manager Neal Huntington admitted early Sunday that the Pirates might have rushed Meadows -- who's rated as Pittsburgh's No. 2 prospect (No. 42 overall), per MLB Pipeline -- to the Majors, by their standards. But they needed someone to play center field in Starling Marte's absence, and they felt comfortable given his outfield defense, his mature mindset and ability at the plate.

"He's just looked comfortable," Huntington said. "He looks like he's playing baseball."

The Pirates have seen Meadows' raw power, too, even if it didn't consistently show up in games this season while he slugged .397 in Triple-A. But it was there on Sunday. Lyles' 84.3-mph curveball came off Meadows' bat at 102.8 mph, according to Statcast™, and traveled a projected 420 feet into the seats.

Video: SD@PIT: Pirates rookie Meadows on 1st career home run

He wrapped up his first weekend in the Majors by going 5-for-11 at the plate over three games.

"The bat-to-ball contact today was significant, it was special," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's roaming the outfield; he's looking pretty good out there as well. He's running the bases. It's been a good first series for him."

Mason Wittner is a reporter for MLB.com.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Austin Meadows