Rodolfo's 2 HRs spark Bucs' comeback win

July 11th, 2021

With a 34-56 record and holding the first overall pick in the Major League Baseball Draft, the Pirates are pretty clearly looking toward the future.

Ke’Bryan Hayes is one of a handful of names who have emerged as key pieces for Pittsburgh. But now, is making his case to be a part of that discussion.

As the Pirates battled back to take a 6-5 victory over the Mets at Citi Field on Sunday -- scoring two runs in the ninth off Mets closer Edwin Díaz -- the 22-year-old continued to put on a power show in New York City.

In the fifth inning, Castro connected on a 3-2 four-seamer from Jerad Eickhoff and sent it to deep right-center field for a home run. In the sixth, Castro took an 0-2 sinker from Jeurys Familia the opposite way for a two-run homer as he helped carry the Pirates back into the game after they fell behind, 5-0, in the first inning.

“I was trying to overswing, and then I brought myself and just calmed myself down,” Castro said of his fifth-inning homer through interpreter Mike Gonzalez. “My focus was, 'Hey, see the ball up,' and once I saw that ball up -- boom.”

With his two-homer day that sparked Pittsburgh's late-inning rally, Castro became the first player since the Yankees’ Kyle Higashioka in July 2018 to hit a home run for each of his first three career hits -- and the first Pirates hitter to accomplish the feat, per the Elias Sports Bureau.

“The kid came up from Double-A, he's playing in New York and the crowd’s into it, and he's having fun,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “That's what we want him to do. We want him to have fun. The moment didn't get too big for him. Really cool day for him.”

And just to add on to what was already a memorable day for him, Castro had to find a chance to flash the leather in the field.

In the bottom of the seventh, after the Pirates had battled back to make it a one-run game, Castro snagged a liner off the bat of Mets center fielder Brandon Nimmo. Right on cue, he turned to Pittsburgh first baseman John Nogowski and fired the ball to double up Luis Guillorme at first.

“Super heads-up by him,” said Nogowski, who delivered the game-tying single in the ninth. “As soon as he caught that ball, he was looking at me, and I was trying to get his attention and he was already throwing it. … I mean, that was a huge momentum spot for us right there, and you can kind of feel a little bit of it shift right there on that play.

“Two dingers and a double play like that, that's a heck of a game by him.”

“To see today, those results come out the way they did, I'm just mind blown,” Castro said. “I'm so grateful and I'm just so excited for how things are unfolding, and just to be able to be up here and help the team win.”

Castro wasn’t named to Sunday’s Futures Game roster. He isn’t Pittsburgh’s third baseman of the future (the club expects Hayes to fill that role). He isn’t even among the Pirates’ Top 30 Prospects, according to MLB Pipeline. But after doing nothing but hit home runs heading into the All-Star break, Castro might just be playing his way into Pittsburgh’s plans.

“My plan is to stay here. I love it here,” Castro said. “I enjoy being a part of this clubhouse, this team. I love competing with them, and more than anything, I love being able to be an asset to helping them win. I think the most obvious answer is that I want to be here and I want to stay here.”