Just a few hours before the first pitch of the series-opening 3-1 loss to the Giants, Will Craig got the call for the second time in his career that he was going to the bigs. The former 2016 first-round pick had been on a hot streak in Triple-A Indianapolis, homering three times in his last two games. At PNC Park on Thursday night, he continued that trend.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Craig hit his first Major League home run, smacking the ball 395 feet over the right-center-field fence off of Camilo Doval.
“I thought it might be a double,” said Craig. “I knew I hit it really well, and as soon as I saw where it was going, I'm like, 'I've got a chance for a double,' and then I saw the outfielders look up and quit running, and that's when I knew and kind of slowed down my pace a little bit.”
Once he realized it was a home run, he still ran around the bases the fastest he has in a long time, but the first baseman was able to breathe a sigh of relief knowing his first hit was out of the way.
The hit made him the first Pirate since Cole Tucker in 2019 to record his first Major League hit as a home run. Though he wished his first hit had come in his callup last season, he feels like things are clicking for him at the right time.
Manager Derek Shelton said pregame that his lineups are all about giving players opportunities. Craig got his chance when first baseman Phillip Evans was sent to the IL earlier in the day with a left hamstring strain.
“It was a really good, nice moment for him,” said Shelton of Craig’s first Major League hit. “Talking to the guys at Triple-A, he had made some adjustments. ... Good swing. I mean, the fastball was 98 [mph], and to go oppo with it, that's a long way to go for a right-handed hitter. I think he started those adjustments in Spring Training. He took it and ran with it. ... I think we saw the benefits of it.”
Craig’s home run accounted for the only run scored by the Pirates, who were held to just five hits by five Giants pitchers.
“Wil [Crowe], single ‘L’” and “Will [Craig], double ‘L’s,’” as their names were once written on the lineup card of an All-Star game in East Tennessee, grew up playing against each other. The two stayed close through the years, and finally had the opportunity to share a Major League field on Thursday night in Crowe’s fourth start of the season.
“It's super cool, Craig’s a buddy of mine,” said Crowe. “We played all the way growing up from seven years old. We've always played against each other, and it's good to have him on my side. I’m happy for him. He works his butt off. He's a great player and a good dude. It's good to see him get that under his belt.”
Crowe was able to hold off the Giants’ offense until the fifth inning, when they broke the scoreless tie and he allowed his second home run of the season. Back-to-back singles and an RBI triple left Crowe on the hook for the additional two runs scored during his five innings of work.