CM – Ben Gamel homers twice, has 6 career-high RBIs as Pirates beat Braves

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Though Ben Gamel had his best performance of his career, he thought as the Pittsburgh outfielder Pirates overheard the MVP chants from the left grandstand in PNC Park that they were being addressed to someone else.

« I thought they were the center of attention for Bryan (Reynolds), » said a smiling Gamel of his all-star teammate.

Gamel went 3 for 5 with two homers in the dead center double for a career high of six RBIs, and Chase De Jong won his first major league win in three years as the Pirates beat the Atlanta Braves 11-1 on Monday night before 11,600 at PNC Park.

The Pirates’ 14-hit parade overshadowed a milestone win for De Jong, who poses for his fourth major league team and reinvented himself playing independent baseball during the pandemic.

Gamel and De Jong were teammates from Seattle in 2017 and took detours to become pirates. So the pitcher was thrilled that Gael’s big game was taking place on what he thought was a very special night.

« To see how he has the night he’s had, I always draw for him and I think it’s great that he hit the ball so well against Milwaukee for us too, » said De Jong of Gamel. « I told him. Just guys in our position who were on multiple teams and were kind of the grinder guy who bounced around to have the success he had on this last stretch, I mean, how can you not draw for him? It’s great.  »

It was the second straight win for the Pirates (31-53), who beat double-digit runs for the second time this season (they beat Cleveland, 11-10, on June 18) and more than for the first time two runs scored since a 7–2 victory in St. Louis on June 27.

The 14 hits were the second most of the season for the Pirates with a 7-6 win over the Chicago Cubs on April 11, followed by a 15-hit in an 8-6 win over the San Francisco Giants on April 15 May. It was even more meaningful as the Braves (41:43) had beaten them by a combined 33-3 in their last three encounters, including 20-1 on May 21.

« There is definitely a sense of relief, » said Pirates manager Derek Shelton. “It’s kind of a snowball. We’re talking about one of the best teams in the National League. We got going and we just kept having good bats and going on. That’s a really good sign for us.  »

It was the second multi-homer game in his career for Gamel, who also homed twice with Milwaukee on May 26, 2019 in a 9-1 win over Philadelphia. Gamel is 8 for 18 (.444) with two doubles, four homers, and eight RBIsBI in his last five games.

« I was really happy with Ben Gael’s night, » Shelton said. “Two home runs to the dead center. That was impressive.  »

The Pirates also got a nice debut from John Nogowski, who was acquired from St. Louis on a trading Saturday. Starting at first base and finishing fifth – just ahead of Gamel in that order – Nogowski went 2 for 4 with a walk, RBI single and three runs.

« That was the start we had hoped for, » said Nogowski. “It’s a long season, a game, but definitely something to build on. Ben had an amazing game. I’m just trying to set the table for him, locked up as he is. Just have good bats try to wear this guy down. Definitely worked.  »

And Ke’Bryan Hayes snapped out of his slump – he was 1 to 22 in his last seven games (six starts) – with a singles in the sixth and a double home run in the eighth.

A day after Tyler Anderson threw seven goalless innings in a 2-0 win over Milwaukee, De Jong (1-3) allowed a run with four hits and three walks with four strikeouts in five innings to get his first win since a 12-4 win over the Chicago White Sox on September 28, 2018, when the right-handed was with the Minnesota Twins.

« I’m pretty emotional right now, » said De Jong. “Two different independent ball stints, multiple organizations, up and down, just fight and grind. I mean three years between major league wins for me.

« This was a pretty special night, and looping through the first night, getting through this and then covering five and not over-stressing the bullpen tonight, I was really proud of that. And then at the end of the day, of course, to have the win, it’s really something special. My boy was in the stands. My wife was in the stands. That was a really special night.  »

The Braves got off to a great start when Ronald Acuna Jr. hit a leadoff single in the middle. Freddie Freeman followed with a double to the right that was beyond the grip of Phillip Evans, who jiggled the ball. His mistake allowed Acuna to score for a 1-0 lead in Atlanta.

De Jong went with Austin Riley and pitched Guillermo Heredia to load the bases with two outs before getting Orlando Arcia to shortstop against Kevin Newman.

De Jong escaped another traffic jam in the third when Reynolds and left fielder Ben Gamel misplayed a freeman fly into the North Side Notch. The ball bounced between them and over the left field fence for a rule double. Freeman advanced to third with an Ozzie Albies fly to center, and Riley pulled another walk to get the runners into corners with an out. But De Jong brought Dansby Swanson to a 5-4-3 double.

Braves starter Max Fried (5-5) wasn’t that lucky. One day after providing a two-time pinch-hit single for a 10-inning walk-off win over Miami, the left-hander was pursued after giving up six runs on seven hits and two walks on 91 pitches. Fried was fighting in the sixth round when the Pirates started with four consecutive hits en route to four runs.

The Pirates dropped two runners in third position when Evans hit a lead-off single and moved up to second on De Jong’s Opferbunt. Adam Frazier took a step and both runners advanced as Hayes flew right and Acuna’s rocket bounced off Riley’s glove from the corner at third base. Fried, however, knocked out Reynolds to end the inning.

In the fourth inning, Nogowski fought his way through an 11-pitch at bat against Fried and fouled six breakballs before pulling a full-count walk. Gamel drove a 3-1 fastball 421 feet into the dead center for a double home run, his fifth of the season and third in the last five games, to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead.

De Jong came out of another traffic jam in the fifth and stranded two runners, although his pitch increased to 91. With activity in the bullpen, pitching coach Oscar Marin visited the hill, but allowed De Jong to take on Riley, who had pulled a pair of walks. De Jong threw a slider to get Riley to fly to the deep center on the first pitch.

Nogowski scored his first RBI with a single left to score Reynolds, Gamel doubled up to score Stallings, and Evans landed on the floor to score Nogowski for a 5-1 lead.

Edgar Santana replaced Fried, and Gamel took a 6-1 lead on a wild pitch. The pirates battled around the medal leaving the bases loaded with two outs when Reynolds struck to end the inning.

Stallings and Nogowski started in seventh place singles before Gamel took Josh Tomlin’s first pitch 412 feet into the middle for his second homer and a 9-1 lead. Hayes made it 11-1 in Frazier with his fourth homer of the season, a 374-foot shot into right field.

“I don’t think we missed our seats. I think the scoreboard reflects that, ”said Gamel. “I think if you go through the at-bats all night, that reflects that too. We didn’t miss the fastball tonight. Didn’t miss the Breaking Ball tonight. We only found barrels.  »

Kevin Gorman is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Kevin by email at [email protected] or on Twitter.

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