Stealing home is rare, but the Pirates’ Kevin Newman did it to win a game
Kevin Newman said there’s no thrill like the one he got last month when his double in bottom of the 10th inning beat the Cincinnati Reds. Especially because it occurred less than two weeks after he left spring training as a major leaguer for the first time.
“That was the coolest hit I had,” Newman said Tuesday three hours before he made his third start of the season at shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
He also won Saturday’s game against the Oakland A’s with a two-run triple in the seventh inning. The Pirates have won 12 of their first 21 games decided by one or two runs, and their backup shortstop, who missed 19 games with a lacerated finger, is responsible for two of them.
But neither hit was as rare as the winning play he authored as a junior at Arizona.
You don’t often see a walk-off steal of home, but Newman did it to win a game against Rice.
“Bottom of the ninth, two outs, tied ball game,” he said. “That was a really awesome feeling.
“I had a big lead. The pitcher was slow to the plate, and I just took off. He threw a curveball. I got in there, and we got the win. It was pretty surreal.”
Newman is no stranger to the stolen base. He was leading the Triple-A International League last season with 28 when he was called up to the Pirates on Aug. 16.
But there’s a good chance he won’t be asked to steal home anytime soon.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said a straight steal of home is more of a “lost risk” than a “lost art.”
“It probably happens more in amateur and college ball, maybe in the minor leagues,” he said. “I haven’t heard of many lately. There were a few people my dad would tell me about back in the day. Maury Wills was the last guy I saw on TV pull it off.”
In the history of baseball, 11 players have stolen home twice in a game, but 10 played between 1901-27.
Jackie Robinson had the most famous steal of home in the 1955 World Series against the New York Yankees.
Hurdle, who stole only one base of any kind in his 10-year playing career, played with two of the greatest base stealers. But he doesn’t remember the St. Louis Cardinals’ Vince Coleman or the Kansas City Royals’ Willie Wilson ever stealing home in any of the six seasons he was their teammate.
Hurdle’s Pirates were victims of a steal of home three years ago at PNC Park when the San Diego Padres’ Travis Jankowski caught left-handed relief pitcher Antonio Bastardo off-guard.
Pirates reliever Kyle Crick has avoided such ignominy.
“I’m pretty quick to the plate,” he said. “It’s usually for guys who are going out of the wind-up, and you’re on third so you can just walk home for the most part.”
Crick said he tries to get the ball to the plate in 1.2-1.3 seconds “to give my catcher a chance.”
“Believe me, the opposition (times pitches). If you’re taking too long, they’re going.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .