Kevin Newman hit two home runs, including a two-run, two-out walkoff, as the Pirates downed the Reds Friday night at PNC Park, 6-5.
Newman's winner was a called shot. Not by him, though. Not even from the field. Instead, in the clubhouse, Clay Holmes leaned over to Steven Brault and told him what was going to happen.
"This game has a funny way of things working out," Holmes was telling me at his locker. "Steve Blass was giving his thank yous, I just looked over and said, 'it wouldn't surprise me if Newman caps this night off with a home run right here.'"
And that was how Blass' final televised broadcast concluded.
"It's pretty magical," Brault said.
There was plenty of reason for Holmes' faith in Newman. For one, that was Newman's fourth walkoff of the season.
"I definitely like being in that situation," Newman said. "I like having those opportunities to come through for the team. I don't change anything in my approach and try to do more. I think I just like the competitiveness that comes with the situation like that."
Since 1920, the furthest back we can safely go, the only other Pirates rookie with that many walkoffs was Al Oliver in 1969.
"They're not easy," Clint Hurdle said of Newman's clutch hits. "Everyone talks about wanting to be the guy. Well, then be the guy, because there's a lot guys that get those opportunities and they're not the guy. He's been the guy."
Second, this is not the same Newman that was playing last September. Perhaps the story line is a bit too worn out now, but Newman did not make a good first impression during his first call-up last year. In the spring, he lost the starting job to Erik Gonzalez.
Now, he is one of the best hitting shortstops in the National League. Actually, he is on the cusp of entering rare company in franchise history. He has recorded an .806 OPS this season. According to the Play Index, the last Pirate shortstop who qualified for a batting title and finished the season with an .800 OPS was Jay Bell in 1993. Before him, it was Arky Vaughan in 1941.
"I worked really hard in the offseason, I worked really hard in spring training and I feel like I'm seeing the benefits from it throughout the year," Newman said.
Third, well, he'd already done this:
That got the Pirates on the board in the fifth, when they were down four runs. It was on a 3-0 pitch, too. Newman had not swung on 3-0 all season.