Jack Suwinski already was amid his first multi-home run game of his career when Pittsburgh Pirates manager Derek Shelton asked the 23-year-old rookie outfielder a question while he waited in the hole in the eighth inning.
“Did you ever have three homers in a game?” Shelton said. “He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Today would be a great day for it.’ ”
When the San Francisco Giants homered to tie the score in the top of the ninth, Suwinski delivered one of the magical moments in PNC Park history and put his name alongside one of the Pirates’ greats.
Suwinski drilled a belt-high slider into the right field seats for a 4-3 walk-off win Sunday afternoon to send the Father’s Day crowd of 23,905 into a frenzy, then slammed his helmet into the dirt on the third-base line and jumped onto home plate and into a swarm of teammates.
“It’s just unbelievable, especially to do it on Father’s Day with my dad (Tim) here,” Suwinski said. “I know it means a lot to him and it means a lot to me, just the amount that he’s done for me and always been there. It’s awesome. I mean, it’s hard to it’s hard to describe, you know?”
Pirates rookie OF Jack Suwinski talks about his three-homer game and the walk-off shot to beat the Giants on Father’s Day. pic.twitter.com/iE0F3JRfAr
— Kevin Gorman (@KevinGormanPGH) June 19, 2022
Pirates fans tossed caps onto the field, a nod to Suwinski’s baseball version of a hat trick. Suwinski became just the second Pirates rookie in franchise history to hit three home runs in a game. Andrew McCutchen did so in an 11-6 win over the Washington Nationals on Aug. 1, 2009.
“It’s good company, obviously,” Suwinski said. “I’ve watched him growing up and he’s a great player, definitely someone who I would like to play like. When I heard that, I was pretty shocked, knowing that’s pretty good company to be with.”
It was the second walk-off homer of the season for Suwinski, who had one June 4 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Suwinski now leads all rookies with 11 home runs. Of those, nine have come at PNC Park, where he’s slashing .284/.337/.636 in 27 games this season.
Shelton said the ballpark, with its short porch in right field, is custom-made for Suwinski’s left-handed backswing and ability to put the ball in the air.
“It’s built for a left-handed hitter that can get the ball in the air,” Shelton said. “That’s his strength, so I think it caters to his swing, especially the way he uses his top hand and is able to turn it over a little bit. I think the biggest part of it is just how composed he stays.”
Right-hander Mitch Keller might want to make sure Suwinski is in the lineup for the Pirates every time he pitches, given the run support he gets. Per MLB.com’s Justice De Los Santos: When Keller pitches, Suwinski is 10 for 34 (.294) with five home runs and eight RBIs.
“It’s a lot of fun to watch,” Keller said. “Every at-bat, you never know what’s gonna happen. He’s got the power potential. He can hit for average, too. It’s special to watch him, especially here. For him to hit a walk-off homer today, that’s awesome.”
Keller recovered from a sloppy first inning for a quality start, allowing three hits, three walks and a hit batsmanwhile striking out four on 92 pitches (53 strikes) in six innings. He has allowed two runs or fewer in four consecutive starts since returning to the starting rotation and has a 2.54 ERA in his last six starts.
The game started with an error by second baseman Hoy Park on a grounder by leadoff batter Luis Gonzalez. Keller then walked Mike Yastrzemski and Wilmer Flores to load the bases before Joc Pederson hit a two-run single through the shift for a 2-0 Giants lead.
Keller followed with three consecutive 1-2-3 innings, thanks to a 6-4-3 double play in the second, getting Pederson looking at a called third strike in the third and Tommy La Stella swinging in the fourth. Keller threw eight pitches in both the second and fourth innings.
“I thought innings two through six was a really good indication. It set the tone,” Shelton said. “That game can get away from us really quickly if he doesn’t regroup. The fact that he regrouped and he and Mikey (Perez) did a really nice job with his tempo througout and it’s probably the best tempo I’ve seen him have in the three years that I’ve been here.”
The Giants reinstated 34-year-old right-hander Alex Cobb (neck strain) from the 15-day injured list before the game, and he made his first start since May 29. Cobb lasted only four innings, giving up two solo homers and one walk with two strikeouts on 60 pitches.
Park hit Cobb’s 2-2 sinker 393 feet over the right-center wall for his first home run of the season to cut the deficit to 2-1 in third. Park became the 16th Pirate to homer this season, which is tied for second-most in the majors behind the Giants’ 17.
Suwinski tied the game in the bottom of the fourth, driving Cobb’s 1-0 sinker 367 feet over the Clemente Wall to make it 2-2. It was Suwinski’s sixth homer with two strikes and helped snap him out of a funk. In the nine games since his previous homer on June 9 at Atlanta, Suwinski was 3 for 26 (.115) with 13 strikeouts, four walks and no extra-base hits.
Suwinski hit his second homer in the sixth, sending Sam Long’s full-count fastball 415 feet into the right-center seats for a 3-2 lead.
That appeared safe when the Pirates turned to David Bednar, bringing the right-hander in to face the heart of the Giants’ order in the eighth. He got Yastrzemski looking but hit Wilmer Flores with a pitch to put the tying run on base, then got Pederson swinging and Brandon Belt to ground out to second. Bednar returned for the ninth, only for Thairo Estrada to lead off by hitting a 1-0 fastball 390 feet down the left-field line for a game-tying homer.
The Giants brought in right-handed submariner Tyler Rogers in the bottom of the ninth. When the AT&T SportsNet telecast flashed a graphic showing that Rogers hadn’t allowed a home run all season, Keller was watching from inside the Pirates clubhouse.
“I mentioned, ‘Ah, it would be a good time to get one,’ ” Keller said, “Sure enough he hit one.”
After a swing and miss on an 82.9-mph fastball, Suwinski took a slider for a ball before smacking a belt-high slider 367 feet and over the Clemente Wall in right. Suwinski, still in disbelief, watched the ball in amazement and thought, “No way, man. No way that’s going.”
Suwinski’s third homer wasn’t just historic, it was for the win.
“I was like, ‘This is the best thing ever,’” Keller said. “He’s always had the capabilities of doing it. Just a special kid.”
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .