PITTSBURGH -- John Jaso slid into third base, popped up quickly, took two slow steps back toward the bag and looked over at third-base coach Rick Sofield. That's when it hit him: He saved the hardest part for last, but he just hit for the cycle.
"I was just hoping they were going to give it to me," Jaso said.
Indeed, Jaso's line drive to center, over the head of Albert Almora Jr., was scored a triple and Jaso hit his way into the PNC Park record books on Wednesday night, completing the first cycle in the history of Pittsburgh's ballpark along the Allegheny River in the Bucs' 8-4 win over the Cubs. Jaso finished the game 4-for-4 with five RBIs.
What's more surprising? That Jaso -- the dreadlocked former catcher/designated hitter turned first baseman -- hit for a cycle, or that it was the first one since the park opened in 2001?
"The fact that nobody's hit one here before," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, smiling. "John was due."
In the sense that Jaso said he'd never come close to collecting a single, double, triple and homer in the same game, sure, he was due.
"It's just a great memory to have," Jaso said.
Jaso became the second player in Major League history to hit for the cycle and catch a perfect game, joining Hall of Famer Ray Schalk, who did so in 1922. Jaso caught Félix Hernández's perfecto with the Mariners in 2012. Knowingly or not, Jaso compared the two accomplishments Wednesday night.
"When you have a season where you don't make it to the playoffs -- we were talking before about the perfect game; we didn't make it to the playoffs -- there are [still] these little moments during the season that you don't want to forget about," Jaso said. "You don't really want to take this blessing for granted, being up here. Even if you don't make it to the playoffs, this is still a one-in-a-million, if not more, opportunity that a lot of people would want to have."
Three of Jaso's hits came off Cubs right-hander Jake Arrieta: a single to left in the second inning, a homer to right in the fourth and a double to right in the fifth. He finished the job in the seventh, ripping a line drive over Almora's head in center field. The ball stuck at the base of the wall before Almora grabbed it, and Jaso wheeled around to third base after briefly hesitating at second.
"The beauty of it was it all started so innocently, with a little opposite-field soft single," Hurdle said. "Then look what the night turned into. Really good stuff."
In addition to owning the first cycle in the history of PNC Park, Jaso hit for the Pirates' first cycle since Daryle Ward turned the trick in St. Louis on May 26, 2004. It was the 23rd cycle in club history, only the third since 1989.
It was the third cycle in the Majors this season, as Freddie Freeman (June 15) and Rajai Davis (July 2) also accomplished the feat.
After a hot start at the plate, this season hasn't necessarily gone as Jaso planned. Even after the cycle, he was batting .267/.348/.407 with seven homers and 40 RBIs on the year. But even as the Pirates played their first "meaningless" game since 2012 -- one without any impact on the postseason race -- Jaso made history with a night the Pirates won't soon forget.
"It's just great to have these little moments in a season. You don't need to go to the postseason to celebrate as a team," Jaso said. "We're family here. It's a great moment to recognize those blessings."