PITTSBURGH -- When Pirates shortstop Kevin Newman hit a single in his first at-bat of Pittsburgh's 6-0 loss to the Brewers in Game 2 of their seven-inning doubleheader at PNC Park on Saturday evening, it was a bit of a surprise.
Not because Newman, who has struggled offensively throughout the 2021 season, collected a knock so quickly in the game. But because it broke an AL/NL-history-tying stretch of doubles he cranked in Game 1’s 14-4 outpour to defeat the Crew.
Newman joined a group of players at the top of the all-time leaderboard for doubles in a game, as he notched four in a span of four at-bats -- and four consecutive innings -- to help fuel the 10-run victory the Pirates desperately needed to snap a stretch of eight consecutive losses.
It was also a surprise that Newman ended up in the lineup for Game 1, as Hoy Park was originally slated to play shortstop. However, left fielder Anthony Alford was a late scratch due to some back spasms, per manager Derek Shelton, and Park shifted to play left.
“I did the same stuff I normally do if I was in there, so nothing changed,” Newman said. “... I got in the cage. I did my routine as if I was playing. I got thrown in late, but I was prepared."
Newman has worked with a lot of video and has taken a lot of hacks this season trying to correct his offense. Even after his four-double day, his .567 OPS in 107 games was the lowest among all qualified hitters in the Majors.
To try to get back to where he was in 2019 -- his first full season, when he hit .308 with an .800 OPS in 130 games -- to finish this season, he’s having to make some minor adjustments and continue to refine them.
“Most of them, you can't even really see watching here,” Newman said. “They're so small, so quick in-game and that's just how hitting is. There's always adjustments to be made. So [I’ve been] getting to work on quite a bit of stuff, and it's definitely nice to have the results like I did today."
Shelton said what has stood out to him about Newman has been how aggressively he’s swung the bat. The shortstop has one of the lowest K rates in the Majors, so it’s not shocking that he isn’t afraid to swing the bat and put the ball in play. But he’s beginning to catch the ball out in front, which translated to all four doubles being pulled to left or left-center field -- including one that was a high chopper.
“He’s got to continue to stay aggressive,” Shelton said. “Not only stay aggressive, but stay on plane, because you can get aggressive and kind of rotate off. He has a tendency to do that at times, but today he stayed aggressive and stayed on plane. You ended up seeing the results.”
The results were historic not only in the AL/NL books, but in Pirates franchise history. The only other Pittsburghers to hit four doubles in a game were Adam Frazier (May 1, 2019) and Paul Waner (May 20, 1932). Newman is also the first Bucs shortstop to hit four extra-base hits in a single game since Hall of Famer Honus Wagner hit three doubles and a homer on Aug. 22, 1910 -- in the second game of a doubleheader.
Newman still has a lot to show this season to try to make a case for his future in the Pirates’ plans, as they try to develop a postseason contender in the coming years. But for a day, he got to celebrate putting his name alongside some of the most storied players in baseball history.
“When I was coming off the field and I was told that I was part of a Major League record, it's something that hits deep, because that's what you dream about as a kid,” Newman said. “Super honored and glad I was in there today and I was able to do that."