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Ke'Bryan a jack of all trades for the Pirates

@adamdberry
September 4, 2020

PITTSBURGH -- After spending five years in the Minors and the first five weeks of this season waiting his turn, Ke'Bryan Hayes has shown the Pirates in a hurry what he’s capable of doing. Hayes had another strong overall showing in Pittsburgh’s 4-3 win over Cincinnati on Friday night, helping

PITTSBURGH -- After spending five years in the Minors and the first five weeks of this season waiting his turn, Ke'Bryan Hayes has shown the Pirates in a hurry what he’s capable of doing.

Hayes had another strong overall showing in Pittsburgh’s 4-3 win over Cincinnati on Friday night, helping the Bucs salvage a split in their seven-inning doubleheader at PNC Park. He tripled and singled off Reds starter Trevor Bauer. Hayes was unsurprisingly smooth at third base. And he surprised even his manager with his speed and skill on the bases.

Box score

“I didn’t realize he ran that well,” Derek Shelton said. “The way he’s moving, it’s outstanding. He’s running like a middle infielder.”

Only a few days into his big league career, Hayes said he’s already getting more comfortable and finding a routine that works for him. The Pirates want to see that kind of development and promise from their young players, something to build around as they move forward. So far, they have to like what they’re seeing from the rookie third baseman.

Hayes had the two hardest-hit balls in the Pirates’ Game 1 loss, according to Statcast: a 108-mph single and a 107.5-mph line drive hit to Reds third baseman Eugenio Suárez. He was responsible for the hardest-hit ball in Game 2, too: a 107.6-mph single during the Bucs’ three-run fourth inning.

Pirates stumble in Game 1

Before that, Hayes -- who doubled and homered in his Major League debut on Tuesday -- ripped the first triple of his career to center field. According to Statcast, Hayes went from home to third base in 11.65 seconds and reached a sprint speed of 28.7 feet per second, better than the average mark of any third baseman in the Majors or any of his Pittsburgh teammates this season.

The last few offseasons, Hayes put in a lot of work to become more of a threat on the bases. The 23-year-old improved his conditioning, fine-tuned his running form and focused on first-step quickness. To enhance his jumps, he spent time in the winter doing 10-yard sprints.

“Coming up through the Minor Leagues, they always put a strong emphasis on baserunning. That’s the first thing we do the first day of Spring Training down there,” Hayes said. “I just want to be a well-rounded player. If I’m not able to hit a double, I’ve got to figure out a way -- if I hit a single or walk -- how to score.”

Anthony Alford took a similar approach during his climb through the Blue Jays’ system, knowing he could use his speed and athleticism to change a game even if he wasn’t hitting well. He and Hayes used their speed to get to Bauer in the top of the fourth inning on Friday night.

After Colin Moran reached on an error by Joey Votto, Hayes smacked a two-out single to center. Up came Alford, who ripped a line drive to left-center field. Hayes sped around the bases to score from first, and Alford flew into third with a two-run triple.

Then, on a wild pitch from Bauer that didn’t bounce too far from home plate, Alford dashed home to give Pittsburgh its first lead of the day. Knowing Bauer would try to spin a swing-and-miss breaking ball in a two-strike count, third-base coach Joey Cora encouraged Alford to take a big lead in case he spiked one. That’s exactly what happened, and Alford didn’t need it to go far to slide home safely.

“Bauer has some nasty stuff, and [we] figured he was probably going to try to throw something in the dirt, make you chase, especially with first base open,” Alford said. “Just had to be ready to score if the ball got away from the catcher.”

The Reds quickly pulled even, as Mike Moustakas took Cody Ponce deep to right in the bottom of the fourth. But back-to-back singles in the top of the fifth by Kevin Newman and Adam Frazier left the Pirates with runners on the corners, and Newman scored on a double-play grounder hit by Bryan Reynolds.

Facing Bauer, who entered the day with a 2.13 ERA, the Pirates knew they’d have to take chances and be aggressive on the bases to manufacture scoring opportunities. That plan played out as well as they could have hoped for.

“I think you have to do things to get things in motion, because you’re not going to sit there and get 10 hits off this guy. This guy’s one of the best pitchers in the game,” Shelton said. “We felt like we had to make some things happen. And, credit to our guys, the most important part of the win tonight was we did. We got guys in motion, we got guys on base and we created our runs.”

Relievers Sam Howard, Chris Stratton, Nik Turley and Richard Rodríguez finished off this unusual “road” game at home, a makeup game for a prior postponement in Cincinnati.

All the damage the Reds did came on two swings against Ponce: the two-run homer Suárez hit to center in the first inning and Moustakas’ solo shot. Ponce, who only gave up one other hit over four innings in his second Major League start, will likely head back to the alternate training site on Saturday after being recalled as the Bucs’ 29th man on Friday.

“They need me for the 29th man, I'm happy to do that. You can't be upset no matter what,” Ponce said. “I've just got to get out there, keep doing what I'm doing. And if it's not this year, then hopefully next year I can earn myself a spot."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.