CHICAGO -- When Pablo Reyes was 16 years old, his efforts to catch on with a Major League organization were met with denial and a disheartening refrain."He could be a good player," Reyes recalled recently, "but he's too short and too skinny."Reyes decided he didn't want to play baseball anymore.
CHICAGO -- When Pablo Reyes was 16 years old, his efforts to catch on with a Major League organization were met with denial and a disheartening refrain.
"He could be a good player," Reyes recalled recently, "but he's too short and too skinny."
Reyes decided he didn't want to play baseball anymore. His father, Francisco, advised him to quit. But Reyes grew a few more inches, put on a little more weight and pursued his dream once more. The Pirates took a chance on him two years later, and now their faith and his hard work are paying off. Right-hander Chris Archer did his part on the mound by striking out nine, while Reyes clubbed a three-run homer to left field and reached base four times to spark a 6-0 win over the Cubs on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field.
"It's the same game now. It's baseball," Reyes said. "Just try to do the best you can do. Play today like it's your last day."
Reyes figures he was 5-foot-5 and less than 150 pounds when he first tried out for scouts. He had seen plenty of 16-year-old kids sign from his hometown of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. But he had to wait until he was 18, when he caught the attention of former Latin American scouting director Rene Gayo and Pirates scout Juan Mercado. He signed for $90,000.
"When they signed me, I started working so hard," Reyes said. "I've got the chance, and I don't want to lose the chance they gave to me. I appreciate that the Pirates gave me a chance, so I want to do everything that I can do now."
That might help explain the all-out style of play that has defined Reyes' pleasantly surprising first month in the Majors. The 5-foot-8, 170-pound sparkplug, who was never a highly regarded prospect, is doing everything he can to earn a spot on next year's roster. In only 14 games, he's made a handful of highlight-reel grabs in right field and blasted three homers -- including two against a Cubs team fighting to secure the National League Central title.
A night after he took Brian Duensing deep, Reyes came up in the second inning with two on and one out against lefty Mike Montgomery. Reyes took one changeup for a strike then belted the next one over the ivy-covered wall in left field.
"I'm not a tall guy, a big guy. I'm maybe the little, short guy on the team," Reyes said. "But it's no matter. My mind is big. I can be short with my body and everything, but the way I think, I know I can do this."
Or, as manager Clint Hurdle put it on Monday night: "He's 6-3, 215 when he looks in the mirror. That plays."
Reyes has matured over the last two seasons, general manager Neal Huntington said, during his climb from Double-A Altoona to the Majors. This year, it all came together. Reyes showed his power and patience on Tuesday, hitting a homer that traveled a projected 377 feet, according to Statcast™, then working two walks.
"Today, I was more ready," Reyes said. "Right now, I think I'm seeing the ball really good. When everything's going good, just see the ball and swing. That's what I'm doing right now."
Reyes has displayed the kind of defensive versatility the Pirates value. Initially an infielder, he picked up the outfield with help from special instructor Omar Moreno. That allowed Reyes to learn right field on the fly in the Majors -- and perhaps play his way into a super-utility role next season.
"We're certainly not going to put a ceiling on him," Huntington said. "But his avenue to the Major League club at this point in time looks like it's as that versatile defender who can help a team win because he can do so much."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Out of trouble: After Anthony Rizzo walked and Javier Baez reached on an infield single, Archer shut down a Cubs rally in the sixth. He struck out Kyle Schwarber with a full-count slider then unleashed three straight sliders to fan pinch-hitter Thomas La Stella.
The right-hander allowed only four hits and two walks over six innings, an effort that lowered his September ERA to 2.70. Archer relied on his slider all night, throwing it 31 times, but he balanced his pitch mix with 16 changeups -- a "difference-maker" for him, Hurdle said -- and six curveballs. Archer credited Francisco Cervelli, his primary catcher since joining the club, for his recent turnaround.
"Everything started to shift when I stopped shaking Cervy. It's him knowing the hitters, knowing the league," Archer said. "It also allows me to not have to think too much. Just go with what he puts down. The month of September, I've been doing that, and I've been pitching much more like myself."
This was the Pirates' 16th shutout of the season, second-most in the NL behind the Cubs (17). It was Archer's first scoreless outing since May 28, when he blanked the A's for six innings while pitching for the Rays.
The Pirates are one victory shy of clinching their first winning season since 2015. The last time they had a winning record and didn't reach the postseason was 1988.
HE SAID IT
"We're just relaxed. We're having fun. August was kind of rough for us, but the young guys that we've brought up have injected life into us and the veteran guys have stepped up. It's the life that they've brought and just out there, having fun, playing the game."-- Archer, on the club's September success. The Bucs have won eight of their last 10 games and 14 of 19.
Pirates right-hander Ivan Nova (9-9, 4.01 ERA) will make his final start of the season at 8:05 p.m. ET on Wednesday against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. Nova, looking to finish the season strong, is 7-4 with a 3.40 ERA since coming off the DL on June 10. Left-hander Jose Quintana (13-11, 4.11 ERA) will start for Chicago.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.