DK'S GRIND

Kovacevic: Reynolds rockets into batting race ☕

Bryan Reynolds took away a home run, hit one of his own and rapped three hits to officially enter the National League batting race.

Bryan Reynolds raps a double in the ninth inning Monday night at PNC Park. - MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

It’s an illusion, Bryan Reynolds will insist, that he’s making baseball look this easy.

Kyle Crick, his teammate with the Pirates who accompanied him from the Giants in the Andrew McCutchen trade, completely concurs.

“It’s not always easy for Bryan, believe me,” Crick was telling me on this Monday night at PNC Park, well after a 9-7 loss to the Brewers all but buried Reynolds going 3 for 5 with a home run he hit and another he robbed. “He has to work through stuff, too. But the difference is, he does. And that’s why he’s going to be a player in this league a long time.”

A player in the league? How about the league’s batting champ?

It’s not easy to keep pace with all of Reynolds’ accomplishments as a rookie, but let’s start with one he achieved on this night that’s got nothing to do with being a rookie: By making five plate appearances, he finally, officially met the minimum threshold to qualify for a batting title, meaning 3.1 of those per his team’s number of games. That put him at 347, the exact number needed, and he fittingly got there in style, by rapping this double off one of the game’s most feared closers, Josh Hader …

… and that after a nails-tough seven-pitch at-bat with the Pirates down to their final out. Because that’s just how he rolls.

And now, so is this:

MLB.com

Crazy, isn’t it?

And the rookie stuff, too: He’s got the highest batting average to this stage of a season for any Pittsburgh rookie since Lloyd Waner’s .355 in 1927, the highest on-base percentage (.409) since ‘Poison’ brother Paul Waner’s .413 in 1926.

The backstory’s that much crazier.

If one recalls, the only reason Reynolds had to play catch-up with plate appearances was that he wasn’t promoted from Class AAA Indianapolis until April 20. And if one further recalls, the only reason he came up was the Pirates were pretty much out of healthy outfielders. And if one further recalls, even once those outfielders started returning, Reynolds was batting .345 by the end of May, making it virtually impossible even for the cheapskate front office to send him back to Indy to avoid Super-2 arbitration status down the road.

Well, he’s still here. And he’s really real.

He’d played 88 career games at the Class AA level, all in Altoona. He’d played 13 career games at the Class AAA level, all in Indianapolis. And he showed up like this in Pittsburgh as a drag-and-drop batting champ candidate.

The No. 1 reason for that, obviously, is talent. The kid’s got what Rick Eckstein calls “a natural fluidity” at the plate, meaning he gets through the zone with both ease and dexterity, able to swing authoritatively to all fields. He’s also got very good speed, a point Clint Hurdle’s made with me many times this summer in stressing how he’s been able to avoid slumps.

Remember any Reynolds slumps yet?

Nope, me neither. And that might be because he’s yet to go more than three games in a row without a hit. Closest he came was a brief 1-for-18 in late June and early July, but he blew out of that with three hits in his next four games.

The No. 2 reason is that he doesn’t let anything affect his mood much one way or the other. Befitting his favorite artist, Johnny Cash — yes, that’s Cash’s legendary ‘God’s Gonna Cut You Down’ he uses for walkup music — he carries himself with the Man In Black’s customary cool and even speaks in a similarly deep, slow voice. (Which freaks me out at times, if I’m being candid.)

I asked Reynolds, in one of the more telling talks I’ve had with any athlete in 2019, if there’s any part of all this that’s fazed him in any way, if there’s any part that maybe intimidated him. You know, the experiences that almost all rookies have.

“Well,” he began without hesitation, “I think there was a point there about a month ago they started throwing a little more offspeed. But I mean, that happens everywhere. To everyone. You’ve always got to make adjustments to what the pitchers are doing. I try to stay locked in on whatever pitch I’m looking for. I try to see the ball. I try to hit the ball.”

So, no issue?

“They’re throwing me the kitchen sink. I’m just trying to react to it.”

That’s it? So, baseball’s easy?

“No, baseball’s tough.”

It is? OK, what makes it tough?

“Nothing specific. … I don’t know.”

He then burst into laughter.

“I got nothing on that, man. I’m sorry. I don’t know how to answer that.”

Understandably.

On this night, Reynolds leaped above one of the raised sections of the left-field wall to rob Milwaukee’s Mike Moustakas of a home run:

Surrounded by cameras and microphones later at his stall, he deadpanned, “It was cool.”

A little later, after Moustakas homered to right field, presumably to avoid Reynolds, it was Reynolds’ turn to clear the same Clemente Wall with this laser inside the right foul pole off Jordan Lyles:

Just another day.

Or maybe not.

“Honestly, I don’t ever look at it that way,” Reynolds told me, now sitting a bit more forward in his chair and motioning around the clubhouse. “This isn’t something I’d ever take for granted. This is what I always worked toward, what I always wanted. I knew why I was called up. I knew it was going to be tough to stay. But I also appreciated the opportunity I had and wanted to run with it. It’s felt really good to be able to do that.”

MATT SUNDAY GALLERY

Pirates vs. Brewers, PNC Park, Aug. 5, 2019 — MATT SUNDAY / DKPS

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Joe in Nebraska
Joe in Nebraska

Hopefully Neal won’t include Reynolds in his next trade for a declining pitcher.

JL
JL

DK, think Eckstein would stick around in the event of a front office change? He seems to have helped a lot this year

TheSeanald
TheSeanald

Thanks for a nice upbeat and well-deserved piece DK. Reynolds is so easy to root for and as many have said before me below, a reason to still follow the Bucs’ through this downtrodden post All-Star break stretch.

bigdaddy
bigdaddy

Loved the article. I sure will be pulling for him to win that Batting Title. That indeed would be something.

Fastman14
Fastman14

The Pirates are ice cold right now ….
But the coverage right now is on fire 🔥!
Great articles today from calling for the clean house to this feature on Reynolds, to the detailed reporting of Bell benching.
So great I can stay in the loop from Daytona Beach Florida ,
Thanks again for the 100th time !

JMaz64
JMaz64

Great to see him do well. I wonder if he’d still be in the minors if the team didn’t have so many guys on the IL. Glad he forced management to keep him in the majors.

PaulieGee
PaulieGee

Good luck and keep it going Bryan!!!

Suwanee88
Suwanee88

It’s funny how NH rarely gets credit for this deal.

Goose
Goose

In this case he did well. Dickerson replaced Cutch and was about equal at the plate and an upgrade in the field. Crick is an average reliever and Reynolds could be a long term above average player. An unpopular move but well played.

Bucn86
Bucn86

Crick is above average. Did you see what he did last year? He’s having a tough time right now. Happens to most relievers

Mrstake
Mrstake

My husband, who bought me the MLB package as a present for me to watch the Pirates, thanks you, Bryan Reynolds, for saving it from being a gag gift.

kscheffler
kscheffler

The reaction by the fan that was going after the potential homerun ball is fantastic!

DJ
DJ

Batting stroke is quick, repeatable and pure and a virtual mirror-image from both sides.

Thankfully they didn’t have the time and at-bats to eff him up in AAA.

chrisinindy
chrisinindy

One of a few bright spots…

ImEasyEd
ImEasyEd

Even when Bell was going great you got the sense it wouldn’t last. With Reynolds, everything is so easy, compact, and fluid, it looks like he could hit .300 in his sleep. He may not hit .330 forever but I don’t see him as a flash in the pan either.

Saxon
Saxon

And it wasn’t that long ago when the Cutch trade announced we all said “BRYAN REYNOLDS? WHO THE HELL IS THAT?”

Cpt. Delicious Pants
Cpt. Delicious Pants

We didn’t all say that. Some of us actually follow the minor league system and knew they were getting a good young player in Reynolds. Admittedly I don’t think anyone thought he would be this good but many knew who he was and knew he would be solid.

Bucn86
Bucn86

Stop it. You had no idea who he was

randyduncan
randyduncan

How many times do you, as a kid, dream of snagging a home run from over the fence like that? So cool. Great player!

Donnie Mason
Donnie Mason

That guy who missed out on catching the home run ball when Reynolds snagged it is hilarious!

Cpt. Delicious Pants
Cpt. Delicious Pants

When I was 10-12yo my buddies and I would go to the field at the school near us and spend hours just throwing balls over the fence to see who could make the best “game saving” catch.

huke20
huke20

If there weren’t so many injuries he’d still be in the minors.

Rocco
Rocco

Yes, carrying logs and climbing under barbed wire.

Suwanee88
Suwanee88

Don’t blame them at all for this. In this ridiculous system called MLB, I’d want to hold onto a guy like Brian Reynolds as long as possible.

Chad S
Chad S

Exactly, Huke.
But wow, isn’t this a great story? Credit all to him, not the BTMIB.

Fleur
Fleur

Even when the team has fallen off the cliff there is much to love about the sport and the Pirate players. This is brilliant work by Dejan Kovacevic.

jackpat54
jackpat54

Dejan, Three articles, one a needed reality with,and I won’t say wishful thinking, but hopeful thinking; new management from Gm to scouting and development can work within Nutting’s fiscal budget and maybe produce a lot more potential good MlB players; the second article reveals that lack of talent,not effort, especially at third and second. I personally think Bell will turn around into a good hitter, and we have some shortstops who can be at least have defensively. Now the third article is the reason I still follow the Pirates on a daily basis since I was nine years old, when the team is not doing by well I begin to cheer on individual players, especially the ones who are also good people.

littleguitargreg
littleguitargreg

A breath of fresh air. We need more ball players like that!

Freddy
Freddy

Outstanding column Dejan! Reynolds is really the one bright spot in an otherwise blackhole of a season. He is the only reason I consistently watch these games now unfortunately.

randyduncan
randyduncan

Just praying we don’t pull a Ralph Kiner on him: “we can lose a hundred games with or without him”.

Cliff70
Cliff70

He has become the only reason I watch games anymore. DVR the game then fast forward to Reynolds’s plate appearances. Most of the rest is depressing,

Hockeymn25
Hockeymn25

This is perfect! This is how I watch golf when Woods is in the field. From no on, Reynolds is Tiger Woods! Thanks Cliff and Thank you Mr. DVR!

Bridge
Bridge

Confession time. I’m an idiot. The other day I’m doing the math trying to figure out how many ABs Reynolds is going to need to have the rest of the way to qualify for the batting title. I even posted as much on an earlier column. My math came up with him barely qualifying by the end of the season and a game off here or there would have disqualified him. Not until I read this (at first arguing in my head with DK that the AB number is in print up there at 306 while DK stated 347) did I realize my error that ABs does not equal plate appearances. What a dope.

Trainframe
Trainframe

Without Brian Reynolds, I personally would really be bemoaning the loss of Austin Meadows! Just think how much worse this front office would look! 👀

Bridge
Bridge

An outfield of Reynolds, Marte, and Meadows would look quite nice.

Trainframe
Trainframe

Ironically, if we had kept Meadows, Reynolds would be in the minors still, and the Storyline would be how he would crack the lineup! This was out of necessity, and even our cheap front office would not send him down. They demoted Meadows last year when he didn’t deserve it, at least this year they didn’t make that mistake again

Rennie.336
Rennie.336

If they kept Meadows they would have traded Marte

DLFord
DLFord

It was a pleasure to read this column. Great way to start the day!

burghfan@CT
burghfan@CT

Impressive job by the dude behind him to not interfere with the catch and then to celebrate.

Bob Sacamano
Bob Sacamano

I love Reynolds. Quiet, no drama, short compact swing, and he comes out to the man in black’s song.

Tomhall15001
Tomhall15001

I needed to read a positive story about the Buccos. Thanks

Robsdaddy
Robsdaddy

Well, this one should cover us for August.

DBinAL
DBinAL

Let’s embrace him for the next 6 years. He’s truly a baseball player. He reminds me of Andy Van Slyke.

emoneypitt
emoneypitt

If they were really smart, they would lock him up after this season.

davey1
davey1

WE say that about everyone when they have a good first year or two i.e… Polonco and Bell after his May and June , lets see how he plays next year , remember Chris Duffy ? ..

Biagio
Biagio

The Pirates destroyed Chris Duffy!

amishmafia
amishmafia

……and Nate McLouth.

my3sons
my3sons

Jim Tracy destroyed Chris Duffy by telling him to ‘pound’ the ball into the ground and use his speed.

Sisyphus
Sisyphus

Chris Duffy destroyed Chris Duffy. The Pirates told him what he needed to do to be successful but he preferred to go his own way. He was never as good as folks expected him to be. He and Nate McLouth came up through the system together and their numbers were usually comparable, but McLouth was two years younger. Duffy was a year or two younger than his level for most of his minor league career. That’s hugely significant. His rookie year was a mirage that should tell us all how deceitful 100 or 150 at bats can be.

Invention Guru
Invention Guru

Disagree about the Van Slyke comparison. Reynolds is a very good fielder but Van Slyke was great. Both had good speed. Reynolds is a switch hitter who can hit lefties. Van Slyke batted left and struggled with left handlers. Reynolds looks to be pleasant person, Van Slyke maybe not so much. Reynolds reminds me of the best rookie in the NL.

Fleur
Fleur

I liked Van Slyke. what was the issue?

jujuphillips19
jujuphillips19

…His stroke from the left side reminds me of Mattingly.