The kids are all right: Suwinski hits walk-off HR

Fellow rookie Contreras puts together brilliant 5 2/3-inning start

June 5th, 2022

PITTSBURGH -- Jack Suwinski wasn’t going to give in.

Opposite of Suwinski, a rookie with a handful of games under his belt, was Mark Melancon, the four-time All-Star who made a living shutting the doors on opponents at PNC Park. The count ran full. Suwinski battled. Foul ball. Foul ball. Foul ball. That Suwinski worked this many pitches out of Melancon was a win in and of itself. There was an even bigger victory to be had.

Melancon’s fourth payoff pitch was a knuckle curve down in the zone. It wasn’t low enough. It caught too much zone. Suwinski caught barrel. He knew off the bat that he’d hit a walk-off two-run home run to lift the Pirates to a 2-1 win over the D-backs on Saturday afternoon. As the ball soared toward the right-field seats, the home crowd became more loud, more cathartic. They’d soon know, too.

“It was awesome,” Suwinski said. “That's the stuff you think about playing Wiffle ball in your backyard. That's my first time doing that, so it was pretty cool.”

For Suwinski, the walk-off home run was the first of his career at any level. He soaked in the entire experience.

Suwinski emphatically high-fived first-base coach Tarrik Brock and did the same with third-base coach Mike Rabelo. As he approached home, he slammed his helmet to the ground before being met by a splash of water and a mob of teammates. As is the custom, Suwinski was doused with the contents of a water cooler during his postgame television interview. None of the excitement that comes with a game-winner would be forgotten.

“That was a heck of a victory,” manager Derek Shelton said. “It’s pretty cool because, man, the crowd was into it, too. I have to give our fans a ton of credit. The eighth and ninth inning, they were extremely engaged. That was really cool to see.”

Suwinski wasn’t the only rookie who electrified, as Roansy Contreras put together the most brilliant start of his young career. Across a career-high 5 2/3 innings, Contreras struck out a career-high eight batters. The only blemish on Contreras’ resumé was an unearned run. Before Suwinski sent everyone home happy, the day was all about The Ro Show.

“[I’m] most definitely feeling a lot more comfortable,” Contreras said through team interpreter Mike Gonzalez. “I know I’m facing new teams that I haven’t faced before -- good teams, competitive teams. But a good thing is I’m feeling a lot more comfortable as I go forward facing these teams.”

Contreras was in the training room instead of the dugout when Suwinski hit the walk-off home run. He wasn’t going to let that get in the way of enjoying the moment.

“We were jumping in the training room like we were celebrating the same way,” Contreras said.

As exciting as the ending was, the Pirates were in danger of not just spoiling Contreras’ stellar start, but letting him leave the park with a loss.

Zach Davies looked on his way to a Maddux for most of the afternoon, setting down the Pirates with quick, efficient innings. The lone run that the D-backs had scored came by way of Contreras’ wild pitch in the sixth inning. Pittsburgh had a chance to take the lead in the bottom of the eighth, loading the bases for Ke’Bryan Hayes. Arizona countered with veteran reliever Ian Kennedy. In this instance, experience won out. Kennedy struck out Hayes. The threat was neutralized. With their backs against the wall, the Bucs finally had their answer.

Bryan Reynolds, who was hitless in three at-bats heading into the ninth, beat the shift with a single that snuck into right field. Then, up stepped Suwinski.

Melancon got ahead in the count, 1-2, but Suwinski didn’t get too aggressive and ran the count full. He fouled off three straight pitches. Then, he sent PNC Park into a frenzy.

Just over a month ago, Suwinski was with Double-A Altoona, while Contreras was with Triple-A Indianapolis. The future is slowly approaching in Pittsburgh, and the future looks fun.

“Today we saw two rookies do something really special,” Shelton said.