PITTSBURGH -- It took four injuries in the outfield to convince the Pirates it was time to call up Bryan Reynolds on April 20. It’s not like they didn’t believe in the 24-year-old outfielder -- they acquired him in a trade for their franchise player in Andrew McCutchen -- but
PITTSBURGH -- It took four injuries in the outfield to convince the Pirates it was time to call up Bryan Reynolds on April 20. It’s not like they didn’t believe in the 24-year-old outfielder -- they acquired him in a trade for their franchise player in Andrew McCutchen -- but who could have expected Reynolds would be ready for the Majors after only 13 games above the Double-A level?
And really, who would have expected this from Reynolds?
The Pirates were down six in the third inning on Wednesday night at PNC Park, but the switch-hitting rookie’s three-run blast to left in the sixth capped a wild comeback in the Bucs’ 8-7 win over the Tigers. It was the Pirates’ first win after trailing by six runs since July 12, 2008, against the Cardinals.
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“Top to bottom in our lineup, it’s just been really impressive over this tough stretch for us as a team,” starter Trevor Williams said. “I hope this is the turning point, and I think it’s going to start coming together.”
Each of Reynolds’ three hits played a part in the Pirates’ comeback. Inside the clubhouse, some players are hoping his performance also raised Reynolds’ profile beyond Pittsburgh.
"What Bryan Reynolds is doing right now is extremely impressive,” Williams said. “I hope a lot more eyes are being opened to who he is as a ballplayer and who he is as a person, because it's really, really impressive. I hope he gets the attention that he deserves."
Fifty-three games into his career, Reynolds is batting .362 with a .989 OPS, six homers and an increasingly permanent spot in the Pirates’ lineup. Funny thing is, even with his prospect pedigree and the price Pittsburgh paid to get him -- Reynolds came from San Francisco alongside Kyle Crick in the Andrew McCutchen trade -- he might not be here right now if not for a series of injuries that decimated the Bucs' outfield depth.
Gregory Polanco missed nearly a month to start the season after left shoulder surgery in September; that made room for Melky Cabrera. Projected replacement right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall went down for the season at the end of Spring Training, which gave JB Shuck a spot on the Opening Day roster. Corey Dickerson played four games before a right shoulder injury sidelined him, so the Pirates called up Jason Martin to fill Dickerson's spot.
Finally, when center fielder Starling Marte went down after colliding with shortstop Erik Gonzalez on April 19, the Pirates summoned Reynolds -- ready or not -- from Triple-A Indianapolis. With his natural feel for hitting and ability to handle all three outfield spots, he’s never given the front office a reason to send him down.
“It’s great,” Reynolds said during an on-field interview. “It’s a dream.”
The start of Wednesday’s game was more like a nightmare for the Pirates. In his return from the injured list, Williams left Pittsburgh in a 7-1 hole midway through the third inning. But Williams held the line after that, retiring the final nine batters he faced. The way the Bucs have been hitting lately, even as the losses pile up, they knew they still had a chance.
“There’s a lot of times when we’ll have that 7-1 [deficit] or we’re down, and we’ll say, ‘What a game this is going to be when we come back and win it,’” manager Clint Hurdle said. “They don’t just check out; they don’t. They keep fighting.”
Reynolds led off the third with a single to left, then Marte worked a walk. Dickerson came up with two on and two outs, battled through a nine-pitch at-bat against Jordan Zimmermann, then punched a two-run double to right to pull Pittsburgh within four.
“With the way we’ve been swinging it lately, we’re definitely within striking distance,” Dickerson said.
Reynolds hit another leadoff single in the fifth, and Marte blasted a 107.1-mph line drive over the fence in left. It was Marte’s 11th home run of the season, but only one of his contributions during a game in which he made an excellent running catch in center and threw out Nicholas Castellanos at second base.
“On certain nights, you see that he’s one of the best players in the league. On certain nights, when you get to see him run, hit and field, it’s fun to watch,” Williams said. “He’s a difference-maker.”
Still, the Pirates needed one more rally. It began with second baseman Adam Frazier, who knocked a leadoff single to center in the sixth inning against lefty reliever Nick Ramirez. Rookie shortstop Kevin Newman drilled a one-out double to right-center, putting the tying run in scoring position.
Up came Reynolds, batting right-handed. He took two pitches to get ahead in the count, fouled off another, then smashed a hanging curveball 421 feet to left field to give the Pirates their first lead of the night.
“It’s a big-time play by a big-time player,” Williams said. “He’s been doing nothing but impressing Pirates and guys that he’s been playing against. I think it’s time for the national media to pay attention to what Bryan Reynolds is doing.”
It was only one game, only their ninth win in a month, but Williams hoped Wednesday night was more than just a coming-out party for Reynolds.
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.