CINCINNATI -- We’ve seen this move before from Derek Dietrich for the Reds against the Pirates.
During the Reds' 8-1 victory over Pittsburgh in Game 2 of Monday's doubleheader, Dietrich crushed a 3-2 pitch from reliever Alex McRae with two outs in the eighth inning, launching it an estimated 433 feet to the upper reaches of the right-field seats. He took his time to really watch the ball land before making his trot towards first base and maintained a slow pace around the bases.
“I was a little anxious the first couple of at-bats,” Dietrich said. “I talked to my hitting coach, Turner Ward. He said, ‘Slow yourself down and back it up.’ That’s what I did. Unfortunately, I got out a little slow out of the box again because I slowed down and backed it up. I listen to my coaches. I’m very coachable. I’m glad we won tonight.”
There is an added dimension to Dietrich admiring a long drive vs. the Pirates. During the second inning of Pittsburgh’s 7-5 victory over Cincinnati on April 7 at PNC Park, Dietrich paused to watch his two-run home run off Chris Archer land in the Allegheny River.
Two innings later, Archer -- who celebrated a strikeout of Dietrich in animated fashion in 2018 -- intentionally threw a fastball behind Dietrich, which led to a benches-clearing incident. Archer received a five-game suspension from Major League Baseball while Yasiel Puig and manager David Bell were also suspended for their roles in the fracas that ensued.
Plunkings have been an ongoing dynamic for several years in the rivalry between the two clubs. Dietrich, who has been a big signing for the Reds after arriving in February on a Minor League deal and is tied for the team lead with 14 homers, was not concerned about the Pirates retaliating again.
“This is baseball. This is how it’s played,” Dietrich said. “I’m going to keep playing the way I play. I think everyone should play the way they play. I’ve got no problems with it. Who knows? I’m just coming to play ball and hit the ball hard. We’re having fun and trying to win.”
A moment of pure irony followed when Puig slugged McRae’s very next pitch to the left-field upper deck to make it back-to-back homers. Known for big bat flips and slow home run trots, Puig sprinted out of the batter’s box and ran around the bases despite the drive being a no-doubter.
“I was glad Yasiel picked me up,” Dietrich said. “That was the joke about it after the fact. We had to even out the times. He definitely picked me up and it’s funny he’s the guy that did that. I could expect maybe Joey [Votto] or even [Eugenio] Suarez. But when Puig does it, it makes it that much better.”