With one strong swing of the bat, Starling Marte sent the ball sailing high into the sky.
This shot would clear the fence with ease. On which side of the foul pole was to be determined.
With the score tied in the eighth inning and his team riding a swell of momentum after quickly clawing back from a five-run deficit, Marte had the chance to give the Pirates the lead in a game that seemed over two innings earlier.
He took four steps out of the box and leaned to his right, as if to will the ball on the right side of the left-field foul pole.
"I was watching, looking," he said. "It was very close to the pole."
About halfway through the flight, Russell Martin, standing in the on-deck circle, knew it was going to be fair. So, too, did manager Clint Hurdle, standing in the third-base dugout.
"I thought it was fair, just not by much," Hurdle said. "It was fair enough."
Marte's first home run of the season helped the Pirates beat the Reds, 10-7, Sunday at PNC Park, completing a three-game sweep of the division favorites. Catcher Michael McKenry, making his second start of the season, hit two home runs in a two-inning span for his first career multi-home run game.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Pirates, 7:05 p.m. today, PNC Park.
- TV, radio:
Root Sports, KDKA-FM (93.7)
RHP Lance Lynn (1-0, 4.50) vs. RHP James McDonald (1-1, 3.75).
- Key matchup:
McDonald vs. Matt Holliday, who is 2 for 15 (.133) with two doubles and four strikeouts in his career against McDonald.
- Hidden stat:
Lynn has limited Pirates hitters to a .227 batting average but has a 4.44 ERA against the Pirates.
But 30 minutes before those home runs, the game seemed all but over.
Cincinnati (5-7) capitalized on some early nerves from Pirates starter Phil Irwin, making his major league debut. Irwin, making a spot start for injured pitcher Wandy Rodriguez, allowed five runs, four earned, on six hits in 4 2/3 innings.
Meanwhile, the Pirates offense was absent, never getting more than one runner on base in the first five innings as the Reds built a 5-0 lead.
But in the seventh inning, the offense started to stir.
"We talked before the game, the coaching staff, saying, 'It would really be a good day for us to do some batting,' " Hurdle said. "I didn't realize we were going to wait until the last two innings to do all that offense."
McKenry ignited the rally with a leadoff home run against starter Mat Latos, and Andrew McCutchen and Travis Snider added RBI doubles. Snider's likely would have been a home run if not for fan interference, and it was close enough to prompt a second look from the umpires.
In that inning, the Pirates (6-6) cut the deficit to one run. But the Reds responded in the top of the eighth by attacking reliever Jared Hughes. Jack Hannahan's fourth pinch-hit of the season scored Todd Frazier to provide a cushion that seemed even bigger with two of the game's top late-innings relievers poised to take the mound in Jonathan Broxton and Aroldis Chapman.
But a leadoff walk from Broxton to Pedro Alvarez brought McKenry to the plate for his second home run, tying the score, 6-6.
Fans beckoned McKenry out of the dugout for a curtain call -- his second as a Pirate. The first came in 2011, when he hit a three-run, go-ahead home run in a sold-out, Saturday night game.
Apparently, the feeling never gets old.
"Any curtain call is humbling and a blessing," he said.
The Pirates tagged Broxton for two home runs -- McKenry's and Marte's -- and charged him with six earned runs, tied for the most in his career.
Marte, the confident young outfielder who hit the first pitch he saw in the majors for a home run, said he never believed the game was over.
"We felt confident," he said. "I knew we could come back from five runs."
The go-ahead home run was the first of the season for Marte, 24, and is the highlight of a strong start to the season. He leads the team's regulars in batting average (.347) and on-base percentage (.385) and is second in RBIs (seven).
But he still struggles with strike zone discipline at times, and Sunday was representative of the way his team played. Marte committed an error in the second inning that allowed a run to score and started his first three at-bats 0 for 3 with two strikeouts.
But he singled and scored in the seventh inning. And with a big swing -- and a little lean to his right -- he put the Pirates over the top.
Michael Sanserino: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1722 or on Twitter @msanserino. First Published April 14, 2013 9:30 PM