After Jack Suwinski hit the first walk-off home run of his career and received a celebratory ice bath, Jack Suwinski couldn’t help but smile. At Faith Night at PNC Park, he turned Pirates fans into believers.
Just as the Pittsburgh Pirates rookie outfielder was content to extend his ninth inning at bat to nine pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Mark Melancon, Suwinski took a swing that was a sure bet.
Suwinski sent Melancon’s full-count curveball 406 feet over the Clemente Wall for a two-run homer to earn a 2-1 comeback win in front of a crowd of 19,149 on Saturday afternoon at PNC Park.
“It was awesome. Cool experience,” Suwinski said. “Those are the things you think about when you play wiffle ball in your backyard. This is my first time doing this, so it was pretty, pretty cool Pretty special.”
Pirates of Jack Suwinski discusses his first walk-off home run – of his life – and clinched a 2-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks. pic.twitter.com/tYWG4pJVDD
— Kevin Gorman (@KevinGormanPGH) June 4, 2022
After four fouls, Suwinski felt good as he hit the corner for his sixth career home run.
“Yeah, it felt pretty good. I was 99% sure,” said Suwinski. “I was just thrilled, I was able to extend the at-bat. That was a win in itself, fending off and competing with some of those spots. Then being able to win like that was something special.”
Pirates OF Jack Suwinski discusses his nine-pitch-at-bat in the ninth and how he had a good idea his walk-off was going to go over the fence. pic.twitter.com/pnn10y7eHo
— Kevin Gorman (@KevinGormanPGH) June 4, 2022
It was a rousing win for Pirates rookies, between right-hander Roansy Contreras starting and Suwinski finishing.
“We saw two rookies do something really special,” said Pirates manager Derek Shelton. “Ro was really good. He ran the entire game. … He was really good. He was consistent. He was in the zone. He was composed. Then it’s really cool with young players to see Jack have such a big attack on an All-Star closer.
Contreras received a thunderous ovation as he departed in the sixth inning with two outs after another electric performance in which he hit eight outs and allowed four hits and two walks.
However, his last pitch proved costly.
After dropping a leadoff double to Ketel Marte, Contreras tricked Christian Walker into going short. Rodolfo Castro was charged with an error when he launched the ball and his hasty throw pulled Yu Chang’s foot out of the sack, allowing Marte to move up to third place. The Pirates lost a challenge when a video review confirmed the call.
After beating David Peralta, Contreras engaged in a 10-pitch fight with Jordan Luplow. After a full count, Luplow fouled five consecutive pitches before Contreras threw a wild pitch for ball four that allowed Marte to score and put the Diamondbacks 1-0 up.
“If I rate that at the bat, I see that we both competed against each other, you know what I mean?” said Contreras. “He did his best. I did my best. I noticed that we were both competing against each other. I was really looking for a strike, tried to hit him. However, you have seen the results. It was a wild throw and didn’t work in my favor.”
Castro’s mistake was his second as the rookie shortstop squandered one of the Pirates’ best scoring chances with careless effort. After Michael Chavis sang at the start of the second single, Castro hit a pop fly to the first and went down the first baseline with his racquet.
Diamondbacks first baseman Walker waved for the ball and then dropped it at his feet. He first came on fast to get Castro out and then caught Chavis in a rundown for a 3-4-6-4 doubles.
Instead of having a bishop on base, the bases were empty when Cal Mitchell doubled down the right field line. Mitchell was stranded in second place when Tucupita Marcano landed against pitcher Zach Davies.
Where Shelton was sympathetic to the field error, he conciliated and criticized Castro for the mental error on the pop fly.
“That’s unacceptable,” Shelton said. “We don’t play like that.”
While Contreras threw 65 of his 98 pitches for strikes, Davies only allowed two hits — both in the second inning — before getting into trouble with 22 pitches in an eighth inning.
After getting a pair of groundouts, Davies started with Marcano. The Pirates used Daniel Vogelbach to hit Chang, who has seven strikeouts in nine at-bats since he was claimed by Cleveland on waivers, and Vogelbach singled left. Davies then went to Michael Perez, who had struck twice to load the bases.
Davies was replaced by Ian Kennedy to face Ke’Bryan Hayes, who hit .333 with the bases loaded in his career. Kennedy got Hayes to swing a 1-2 fastball for a strikeout to escape the jam.
The Diamondbacks turned to Melancon in the ninth, which began with a Bryan Reynolds single on right back. That sets the stage for Suwinski’s sixth homer and first walkoff of his career.
“That was a hell of a win,” Shelton said. “It’s pretty cool because, man, the crowd was into it too. I have a lot of credit to give to our fans. They were extremely engaged in the eighth and ninth innings. That was really cool to see.”