With dad watching, Suwinski's 3rd HR of the game walks it off

June 19th, 2022

PITTSBURGH -- As walked on deck in the bottom of the eighth inning, his manager, Derek Shelton, had a question.

You ever had three home runs in a game?

Suwinski had not. Shelton followed up.

Today would be a great day for it.

The Pirates were up a run when Shelton asked the question. With the lead, the skipper was in a more jovial mood. The inning ended with Suwinski stranded in the on-deck circle. Suwinski’s day at the plate appeared to be over -- until it wasn’t.

The Giants tied the game in the ninth. Suwinski would have his chance at the trifecta. He wasn’t thinking about going for gusto. He wanted to keep things simple. In trying to do the least, Suwinski did the most.

“I was just like, ‘No way, man,’” Suwinski said, beaming with a smile that has yet to fade. “‘No way that’s going.’”

Yes, way.

Suwinski hit not one, not two, but three home runs, including the walk-off solo shot in the bottom of the ninth in the Pirates’ 4-3 win over the Giants on Sunday at PNC Park. He became the second Pirates rookie to hit three homers in a single game since Andrew McCutchen. The kicker? On this Father’s Day special, Suwinski’s father, Tim, was in attendance to witness his son direct the three-part epic.

This isn't the first time Suwinski has had a moment with his dad in a big league game. Earlier this year, with his father in attendance, Suwinski homered at Wrigley Field in his hometown of Chicago, bringing his dad to tears.

“It’s just unbelievable,” Suwinski said. “To do it on Father’s Day with my dad here, I know it means a lot to him and it means a lot to me, just the amount that he’s done for me. He’s always been there. Just being able to share that, knowing he’s here, it’s awesome. It’s hard to describe.”

Shelton wasn’t the only Pirate trying to play the role of Nostradamus. , who allowed two runs (one earned) across six innings in his latest quality outing, was in the training room when Suwinski came to the plate in the bottom of the ninth. A graphic showed that Giants reliever Tyler Rogers hadn’t allowed a home run all season. Keller pondered the possibilities.

“I mentioned, ‘Ah, it would be a good time to get out,’” Keller said. “Sure enough, he hit one. I was like, ‘This is the best thing ever.’ He’s always had the capabilities of doing it. Just a special kid.”

Suwinski, who became the first rookie in all of baseball to hit 10 or more home runs this season, theorized that Keller and Shelton weren’t the only two who busted out the crystal ball.

“Probably everyone will say they called it,” Suwinski laughed.

Suwinski knew that sinking Rogers’ submarine would be a tricky proposition. San Francisco’s master of deception and funky releases from his shoe tops, his knuckles almost grazing the ground. It’s a delivery that generates movement that’s foreign to most hitters, especially when it comes to his rising slider. Rogers went with the slider in a 1-1 count. The slide piece rose, but not high enough. Suwinski didn’t miss. It was an afternoon in which he couldn’t miss.

The rookie tormented all pitchers who left mistakes in the zone. Suwinski lined Alex Cobb’s middle-middle sinker over the right-field fence for his first jack of the afternoon. Two innings later with the game tied at 2, Suwinski turned on Sam Long’s fastball and launched a 415-foot no-doubter that cleared the concourse on the fly. After David Bednar allowed a solo home run to Thairo Estrada in the ninth, tying the game, Suwinski responded by completing his masterpiece.

The excitement of the moment was only amplified by the news that broke right before Suwinski’s game-winner. As the game entered the bottom of the ninth, reports trickled out that the Pirates would be calling up Oneil Cruz, the team’s über-athletic shortstop whose exit velocities border on the surreal. Shelton confirmed after the game that Pirates would not only be bringing Cruz, but outfielder Bligh Madris in what will be his first call-up. All in all, it was the most exciting 15-minute stretch of Pittsburgh’s season thus far.

Cruz and Madris’ time in the Pittsburgh sunshine will come on Monday. But Sunday belongs to Suwinski. With his father in the house, he orchestrated one of the greatest individual performances in this ballpark’s history. Suwinski treated his dad to a show. He’ll be taking care of the dinner, too.

“It should be my treat,” Suwinski said. “He’s paid for a lot of my dinners. I think I owe him a couple.”