When Michael Chavis hit a bloop that dropped in shallow right field for a single, Ke’Bryan Hayes sprinted toward home plate and slid head-first into catcher Willson Contreras to score the winning run.
When Hayes remained facedown on the ground, it tempered the celebration of the Pittsburgh Pirates winning 8-7 on a walk-off in the 10th inning Thursday afternoon against the Chicago Cubs. The Pirates won three games in the four-game series between the NL Central rivals.
As fireworks exploded over PNC Park, however, a quiet fell over the crowd of 14,529 until Hayes rolled over and reached for his left shoulder while team trainer Rafael Freitas tended to the third baseman.
“I think it went from a walk-off enthusiasm to about as hushed of a crowd as you can get for a walk-off,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “When you have a guy like Ke’ that slides in and stays down for a second … major-league wins are major-league wins, and that’s important and we won a series, but the concern at that point was just making sure he was OK.”
Hayes eventually got up and walked off the field his own. That he stretched and rotated his left arm was seen as a positive sign, but Hayes was unavailable for comment after the game because he was having an extensive evaluation of his left shoulder by the medical staff. Even the threat of a potential injury to a player who signed an eight-year, $70 million contract before the home opener cast a cloud over the win.
It certainly overshadowed the late-game heroics of Chavis, who hit a tying home run in the eighth inning after the Pirates’ bullpen blew a four-run lead, then made a dazzling defensive play to prevent a run in the top of the 10th before getting the winning hit in what Shelton called “a nice culmination of about 30 minutes for Michael Chavis.”
“Everything is all butterflies until you see Key slide in,” Chavis said. “Immediately, with the way he slid in, you see contact with the knee or shin guard and you’re like, ‘Hope that’s OK.’ Everybody knows sliding in head first to home is a little concerning. When he didn’t get up or roll over and react immediately, everybody held their breath for a little bit.”
Pirates lefty Jose Quintana (2-4) delivered a quality start, recording as many strikeouts (six) as hits allowed and giving up only one walk while throwing 53 of his 83 pitches for strikes.
The Pirates got to Cubs starter Justin Steele (2-6) early as Bryan Reynolds lifted them to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning when he drove a 1-1 fastball 405 feet to center for his team-best 12th home run
Quintana got into a jam by loading the bases in the third on soft contact as Nico Hoerner beat the throw on a grounder to second, Nelson Velazquez drew a walk and PJ Higgins got another infield single on a dribbler that Quintana tried to scoop and relay with his glove.
Hoerner scored when Contreras grounded into a forceout at second to tie it at 1-1, and Ian Happ singled to shallow center to score Velazquez for a 2-1 Cubs lead.
It didn’t last long as Hayes sent Steele’s 0-2 slider over the wall at the North Side Notch in left-center, a 411-foot shot for his third home run and a 3-2 Pirates lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, the Pirates took advantage of back-to-back Cubs errors as Hayes reached on an error by second baseman Jonathan Villar and scored when Patrick Wisdom couldn’t handle a Reynolds grounder to third for a 4-2 lead .
The Pirates stretched their lead in the sixth as Yu Chang hit a two-out single to left and scored when Oneil Cruz crushed a double off the center-field wall for a 5-2 lead.
Dating to his major-league debut last October, Cruz has driven in a run in each of his first six career games (10 total), making him one of three players to do so since the RBI became an official statistic in 1920.
Cruz made a fantastic play in the field to save a run in the seventh. After Hoerner doubled to left — causing Jack Suwinski to crash into the wall — Cruz made a diving stop to his left on a Velazquez grounder to hold Hoerner at third.
Chavis tied it at 7-7 in the bottom of the eighth, hitting David Robertson’s first pitch, a slider, 410 feet into the visiting bullpen for his seventh home run. David Bednar tossed a scoreless ninth for the Pirates, slapping his glove in celebration after striking out Happ and Wisdom.
Chris Stratton pitched the 10th for the Pirates, which saw Wisdom start at second base and advance to third on a fly out to right by Yan Gomes.
Chavis backhanded Jason Heyward’s grounder and fired a strike to catcher Tyler Heineman to get Wisdom out at home. The Cubs challenged the call, arguing Heineman blocked the plate, but the call stood after a video review.
The bottom of the 10th started with Hayes at second, with Scott Efross intentionally walking Reynolds before striking out Diego Castillo. That brought Chavis to the plate, trying to carry over his positive play. After taking a called first strike, Chavis swung at a sinker.
“I thought he was going to give us a good at-bat,” Shelton said. “I was just happy he stayed out over the ball and didn’t try to do too much. Sometimes, well-placed hits are the best thing.”
The ending wasn’t the way Chavis or the Pirates would have scripted it, especially before a six-game road trip to Tampa Bay and Washington, but the Pirates were pleased with a series win over the Cubs after absorbing Wednesday night’s 14-5 loss .
“I’m not sure if I ever had an awkward walkoff. Usually they’re pretty celebratory. That was definitely one of the more in-between ones,” Chavis said. “Ke’ walked off the field. He stood up, so that’s the biggest thing we’re focused on. Shoutout to him just for busting his butt to score that run. When I checked on him, I was like, ‘I know you’re banged up, but I appreciate the effort you’re giving.’ At the end of the day, that’s really all you can say. It sucks that he got a little banged up, but I appreciate him balling out right there to score that run.”
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .