Just when all of the attention was on Pittsburgh Pirates rookie Oneil Cruz for a Statcast-shattering home run, the Milwaukee Brewers got a gift when rookie Garrett Mitchell hit his first major league homer.
Mitchell’s two-run shot off Wil Crowe tied it with two outs in the eighth inning, and Keston Hiura’s two-run homer off Crowe in the ninth led the Brewers to a 7-5 walk-off win Monday night at American Family Field.
It was the 14th home run for Hiura, who replaced an injured Rowdy Tellez (knee) at first base. The Brewers ended a five-game losing streak against the Pirates this season.
Until then, Cruz was the center of attention.
The first two times Cruz put the ball in play, it was at a recorded exit velocity of 113-plus mph. Both, however, resulted in outs. The hard contact, however, served as an indicator of things to come. Cruz crushed a Corbin Burnes cutter 437 feet into the second deck for a three-run homer to give the Pirates a 4-3 lead.
It was the fifth-hardest hit homer in MLB this season and the hardest hit by a Pirates player in the Statcast era (since 2015).
Six of Cruz’s 11 homers have come against the Brewers, including in back-to-back games on June 30 and July 2 and Aug. 2-3 at PNC Park. Two of those six have come against Burnes, the 2021 NL Cy Young Award winner.
That places Cruz in elite company in Pirates history, joining Roberto Clemente, Manny Sanguillen and Willie Stargell as players to hit multiple homers off a reigning Cy Young winner in a single season. Clemente had two against Bob Gibson in 1969 and three against Ferguson Jenkins in 1972; Sanguillen and Stargell both hit a pair off Steve Carlton in 1973.
And Cruz wasn’t the only Pirate to homer off Burnes, as Rodolfo Castro hit a 427-foot shot in the sixth inning. It capped a rough August for Burnes, who has a 5.69 ERA in six starts and has given up five homers. He’s allowed a career-high 19 home runs this season.
With JT Brubaker missing his scheduled start while on paternity leave, the Pirates turned to Wilson for his second start in four days. Wilson lasted only one inning Friday night in a 7-4 loss at Philadelphia, when he threw 43 pitches against the Phillies.
Through the first two innings, Wilson was efficient and effective in throwing 28 pitches. He retired the side in order on 12 pitches in the first inning, then allowed a Hunter Renfroe single in the second but recorded two strikeouts and a groundout.
But Wilson encountered trouble in the third, when he allowed five consecutive batters to reach base on a walk and four hits.
Garrett Mitchell drew a walk and stole second on a pickoff play. Wilson threw to first baseman Michael Chavis, who took two steps before throwing to shortstop Oneil Cruz. Mitchell was called safe but the Pirates challenged, only for it to be upheld. Mitchell advanced to third on a single by Christian Yelich and scored on a single by Willy Adames to right for a 1-0 lead.
Yelich tried to score on a single to left field by Rowdy Tellez but was thrown on a perfect one-hopper to the plate by Jack Suwinski, who was recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis. A two-run double down the right field line by Renfroe followed, and Chavis was charged with an error when his relay throw skipped past catcher Jason Delay to allow Tellez to score to make it 3-0.
The Pirates had little luck against Burnes. Ben Gamel singled but was stranded in the first inning. Suwinski snapped an 0-for-29 slump – which dated to mid-July – with a single in the second, but was picked off at first. And Bryan Reynolds singled to start the fourth but was forced out at second.
Finally, the Pirates scored in the fifth. Kevin Newman hit a one-out single to left and Tucupita Marcano put runners on first and third with a single to right for Jason Delay, whose single to center Newman scored to cut it to 3-1.
That put runners on first and third for Cruz, who lined out a 113.8-mph exit velocity in the first inning and grounded out at 113.2 in the third. This time, Cruz drove a 3-1 cutter at 117.5 mph for a 4-3 Pirates lead.
After allowing three runs on five hits and two walks with two strikeouts, Wilson was replaced in the fourth by lefty reliever Eric Stout. The Brewers rallied against Stout with two outs in the fifth, starting with a single to left by Renfroe. A Kolten Wong grounder should have ended the inning; instead, Stout reflexively stuck out his left foot and the ball ricocheted toward third.
When Andrew McCutchen drew a full-count walk to load the bases, Shelton turned to right-hander Yohan Ramirez, who got pinch hitter Luis Urias to ground out to short to end the scoring threat.
Castro crushed a 2-1 changeup off Burnes to right-center for his fifth home run and a 5-3 Pirates lead in the sixth inning.
The Pirates kept the Brewers at bay until the eighth. After Narvaez drew a two-out walk against Duane Underwood Jr., Shelton turned to Wil Crowe. Mitchell turned on his 1-0 changeup, sending it 414 feet to right for his first major league home run and tying the game at 5-5.
Crowe returned for the ninth, giving up a single to Adames to set the stage for Hiura’s heroics.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .