Kratz's key homer touched by an Angel

Catcher's game-winning shot nearly pulled back by Giants' Pagan

June 21st, 2016

PITTSBURGH -- Jeff Locke thought the ball was foul, then catchable, then caught. Then he didn't know what to think. Erik Kratz thought it was a deep flyout. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle thought seeing Angel Pagan's empty glove was enough.
Kratz delivered the game-winning homer off Giants ace Madison Bumgarner in the fifth inning Monday, a solo shot that barely cleared the left-field wall -- and was very nearly taken away by Pagan -- and led the Pirates to a 1-0 win at PNC Park.
Kratz got hold of a 92 mph fastball in the scoreless tie and lifted it to left. Pagan leaped toward the left-field stands, reached out his glove and hung on the wall for a moment. Pagan planted both feet on the warning track, turned and threw down his glove.
"I didn't see the ball roll out," Hurdle said. "I was pretty good then."
"I looked up and he was spiking his glove," added Kratz. "I knew he either had a touchdown or an alley-oop, one of the two."
Or option three: Kratz's homer landed in the first row of the bleachers for his first home run of the season and his first hit as a Pirate.
"There was a lot going on right there," said Locke, who threw 6 2/3 scoreless innings to Kratz, earned the win and shared credit for Pittsburgh's victory. "Big poke for him."

The journeyman backstop had been 0-for-16 with the Bucs, 2-for-45 on the year. He hit a hard foul ball to right field in his first at-bat -- "a homer in cricket," as he put it. Then he tagged his first homer since 2014 against the Giants ace who hadn't lost a game in two months.
Behind the plate, Kratz called a shutout, leading Locke, Neftali Feliz, Tony Watson and Mark Melancon to nine scoreless innings against a red-hot Giants team.
"He's finding his own way. I thought it was very good game-calling," Hurdle said. "Really solid back there."

The Pirates acquired Kratz in a minor trade with the Angels on June 11. They needed a catcher, because their top three options were sidelined or limping that way. Francisco Cervelli had surgery to repair a fractured hamate bone. Chris Stewart has played through left leg injuries. Elias Diaz is recovering from right elbow surgery.
That led the Pirates to Kratz, who made three flights in one day (Fresno, Calif., to Salt Lake City, to Minneapolis, to Pittsburgh) and found himself behind the plate with another new team and another new group of pitchers.
A little more than a week later, Kratz has developed a rapport with those pitchers, including the four he guided toward nine zeros Monday night. Then again ...
"It's always easy to say that when you have a shutout," Kratz said.