Cruz's prediction comes true on Reynolds' walk-off HR

August 4th, 2022

PITTSBURGH -- Oneil Cruz had a prediction. Well, it was more of an affirmation.

The bottom of the ninth inning would begin with an All-Star on All-Star matchup. Bryan Reynolds versus Devin Williams. As Reynolds strode to the plate, with the sounds of Zach Williams’s “Rescue Story” echoing throughout PNC Park, Cruz turned to team interpreter Mike Gonzalez. Cruz wasn’t talking strategy. Cruz was calling game.

Cruz manifested. Reynolds delivered. Williams left a fastball in the wrong location. Reynolds sent everyone home. Reynolds delivered the first walk-off home run of his career, lifting the Pirates to an 8-7 win over the first-place Brewers, and Cruz looked pretty smart in the process, too.

“[Cruz] looked at me at that moment and was like, ‘Hey, check out this home run that’s about to happen,’” Gonzalez said. “When it happened, I couldn’t believe it myself, but I was confident that something big was going to happen.”

“Big” almost undersells the magnitude of Reynolds’s clutch exploits. Williams had not allowed a run in his last 30 outings dating back to mid-May. Before Reynolds' shot, the last time Williams allowed a run -- earned or unearned -- was May 10. Williams wasn’t dominant during that stretch. He was automatic. To add another layer to the onion, Williams hadn’t allowed a home run all year. That’s a claim that none of baseball’s most intimidating relievers -- Edwin Díaz, Ryan Helsley and Emmanuel Clase, among others -- could make. Enter, Reynolds.

Williams fell behind in the count, 2-0. With Reynolds ahead, Williams went with a third-pitch fastball. The pitch ended up high and middle. Entering play, Reynolds was hitting .412 against pitches in that zone. He got his pitch, and he didn’t miss.

Reynolds knew it was gone off the bat, coolly dropping his bat and taking a second to admire his work before taking his victory lap. It was his first home run since the birth of his second child, Brooks, a home run he partially attributed to dad strength. Williams knew it was gone, too, instantly putting his hands on his hips and watching the ball fly away. Reynolds didn’t think a walk-off would be the end result. Williams, who has been thrust into the role of closer following the surprise trading of Josh Hader, likely didn’t, either.

“I walked up to the plate telling myself, ‘This probably isn’t a guy you’re hitting a home run off of, so just try to get him in the zone, or maybe he’ll walk you,’” Reynolds said. “I got to a good count and he threw me a heater.”

“It’s not like I haven’t been in that situation before,” Williams said. “I’ve done that multiple times this year where it’s either a tie game or we have the lead. I approached it just like any other game. Just got a different result today.”

Cruz may have relished playing the role of Nostradamus, but he, himself, had a home run worth celebrating.

Reynolds’s walk-off home run was hit into the bar that resides beyond right-center field. Cruz’s two-run home run off Brent Suter hit the top of the bar. At 113.9 mph, Cruz’s home run was the Pirates’ hardest-struck batted ball that landed for a hit this season. At 434 feet, it was the farthest home run Cruz has hit so far. He knows he can go farther.

“Of course,” Cruz said when asked if he wants to clear the bar. “I’m trying to hit it out even further.”

“I mean, honestly, he’s hit some good pitches out there,” Suter said. “He’s hitting pitches that weren’t even strikes so it’s not all necessarily meatballs or whatever, but mine today was a meatball.”

Reynolds and Cruz’s happy-hour hijinks were just two of the many ballads that composed Wednesday’s back-and-forth affair. The Pirates, rolling with a bullpen game after having traded José Quintana, quickly found themselves in a four-run deficit in just two innings. They responded with seven runs of their own -- two in the third, two in the sixth and three in the seventh. The Brewers countered with three runs in the eighth, tying the game. To close the evening, Reynolds’ bat sang good night.

“Yeah, exactly how we drew it up,” said manager Derek Shelton.

And the Reynolds game-winner? Well, that’s how Cruz drew it up.