Game of inches: Hayes misses 1st on HR trot

Rookie remains unfazed; 'His heartbeat stays the same'

June 9th, 2021

PITTSBURGH -- A few weeks after a blunder at first base for the Pirates, another struck on Tuesday in a 5-3 loss to the Dodgers at PNC Park. Except this time, it was their star player, and it was a moment of celebration until it wasn’t.

Third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes, who returned from the 60-day injured list on Thursday, has produced for the Pirates in limited action this year, and it appeared he’d done so with one out in the first inning. He shot a ball to the opposite field that barely cleared the Clemente Wall and was narrowly tucked inside the right-field foul pole. It was initially ruled his third home run in his seventh game of the season.

However, Hayes was unsure if it was going to have the distance coming out of the box, so as he was sprinting up the first-base line while watching the ball, he stepped around first base instead of on it. The Dodgers caught the mistake, and when Walker Buehler got set to face Bryan Reynolds in the next at-bat, he threw over to first baseman Max Muncy for the 1-3 putout.

A video review confirmed the out, and the Dodgers escaped the first inning without a score -- by a foot’s width.

“It's one of those things that Key thought he caught the back corner of it, and he didn't,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “If he even thinks he misses it, he has to go back and touch it."

Missing a bag on a home run is a rarity in the Major Leagues these days. According to data at, it appears the last home run to be lost due to a player missing a base happened on June 17, 1983. However, that situation was slightly different: Al Cowens of the Mariners was dashing around the diamond to attempt an inside-the-park home run.

Oddly enough, Hayes is not the only Top 10 overall prospect to miss a base while making the trip around for a homer. No. 7 prospect Bobby Witt Jr. -- who is the son of a former Major Leaguer like Hayes -- blasted a home run for Kansas City’s Double-A affiliate, Northwest Arkansas, but the home-plate umpire ruled he did not touch home plate.

It’s the second wacky, attention-grabbing play at first base for the Pirates this season. In a 5-3 loss to the Cubs on May 27, Bucs first baseman Will Craig initiated a two-out rundown with Javier Báez that resulted in a run scoring and the Chicago shortstop reaching second base on a throwing error. Had Craig simply backpedaled and tagged first base, the inning would have ended without damage.

"They're two plays I've never seen before,” Shelton said. “I think, like we said before, you stay in the game long enough, you see everything."

Hayes also was thrown out trying to advance to second in the third inning by left fielder AJ Pollock, which ended the inning instead of putting a runner in scoring position for Colin Moran.

“I thought he made a good read on that,” Shelton said. “He made a good, aggressive play. He was safe initially, and he just slid past the bag."

However, despite one glaring mistake and an out on the basepaths, Hayes was the only real sign of consistency for the Pirates against Buehler. The Dodgers’ right-hander held the Pirates to two hits in seven innings; one came off the bat of Hayes on a single in his second at-bat, and the other came from Moran in the second inning.

Hayes’ single was one of three hard-hit balls for him against Buehler, as the rookie drove the ball an estimated 299 feet or more in all three at-bats against Buehler -- who collected two hits of his own.

“That could have easily been a day-ruiner for him, and he could have mentally checked out,” said center fielder Bryan Reynolds, who homered in the ninth inning. “But he didn't and strung together a bunch of good at-bats after that, so that says a lot about who he is as a player and as a person.”

“I think that's a testament to who he is,” Shelton said. “This kid, nothing fazes him. His heartbeat stays the same the entire time."