'We're resilient': Bae belts walk-off HR to take down Astros

April 12th, 2023

PITTSBURGH -- When suffered a devastating left ankle injury on Sunday, an ailment that will sideline him for most of the season, there was a very real possibility that the good vibes in Pittsburgh would end right then and there.

, however, harbored no such concerns.

“I’ve been saying since the beginning that our identity is bouncing back from adverse stuff throughout the games,” Reynolds said on Monday. “It’s just going to be another test for us, but I think we’ll respond well to it.”

On Tuesday, they showed just how well they can respond. Despite a tough beginning, despite a game-altering error, despite a blown save, the Pirates found the resolve to knock off the Astros at PNC Park, 7-4, as Ji Hwan Bae blasted a walk-off, three-run homer in the ninth, delivering a statement victory against the defending champions.

“We’re resilient and we keep playing and we keep grinding through things,” manager Derek Shelton said. “We faced a really good pitcher today and we faced the back end of a really good bullpen and our guys continued to go and we took advantage of the opportunities that they gave us.”

Tuesday’s thriller was the latest instance in which the Pirates lost the early rounds but rebounded to win the fight, but it was far from the first.

In Boston, allowed five runs in the first inning on three home runs and squandered an early three-run advantage but he managed to pitch into the fifth inning, setting the tone for a 7-6 win and eventual series sweep.

During the home opener, the White Sox sucked the air out of PNC Park with two two-run home runs off , but the Pirates simply responded with their own punches -- a run in the third, four runs in the fourth, five runs in the fifth, and a run in the eighth en route to a 13-9 win.

On Sunday, Pittsburgh collected itself following Cruz’s devastating injury and the benches-clearing kerfuffle that followed, winning 1-0 to take their second consecutive series.

Pittsburgh’s resiliency was highlighted by Bae’s blast, a home run that made him and Ji Man Choi the first South Korean teammates to homer in the same game, but was the one who set the tone. The right-hander ended up with his second consecutive quality start -- six innings, two earned runs, seven strikeouts -- but had to brush off a first-inning home run by Alex Bregman and a second-inning home run by Kyle Tucker to get there.

“We’re a resilient bunch,” Keller said. “We had a couple miscues that led them to tie the game. We just showed that we got everyone’s back.”

Following Bregman and Tucker’s solo shots, the Pirates countered with their own thunder. cleared the right-field bleachers with a two-run home run in the second, then Choi followed Suwinski’s lead by clearing the right-field bleachers with his second home run in as many games.

Pittsburgh didn’t just rely on the long ball. Following Choi’s homer, legged out a hustle double, stole third, then scored after battled back from an 0-2 count and generated a sacrifice fly.

The bullpen appeared to be on its way to locking this game down. pitched a perfect seventh inning. , in a fun bit of nominative determinism, picked up his league-leading fifth hold by pitching a scoreless eighth inning. entered in the ninth to shut it down, but in a span of three at-bats, the Astros showed why they have two World Series rings in the last half-decade.

Mauricio Dubón reached on an error by shortstop , a short throw that first baseman couldn’t pick, then David Hensley smacked a pinch-hit single to put two runners on. With a two-run, game-tying double, Chas McCormick filled PNC Park with groans.

About five minutes later, the Pirates swapped those groans for cheers.

Castro avenged his error with a towering single that landed in no man’s land. came off the bench and chipped in his own single. Then, Bae played the role of hero with his first home run in Pittsburgh, battling back from being down two strikes and launching a no-doubter over the Clemente Wall and emphatically flipping his bat in the process.

“I was mad because I was 0-for-4,” Bae said. “[The flip] just kind of came.”

The Pirates have yet to get through 10 percent of this season. The adversity will come; it’s the nature of the game. So far, they’ve shown themselves plenty capable of taking those blows and dishing them right back.