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Pirates Hyzdu's 2 HRs, 7 RBIs lift Pirates to 15-6 victory

Sunday, July 21, 2002

By Robert Dvorchak, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Adam Hyzdu can't explain it anymore than he can explain the leaning Tower of Pisa.

Adam Hyzdu makes it back-to-back games with curtain calls after his second three-run homer last night at sold-out PNC Park. (Peter Diana, Post-Gazette)

One night after he hit his first grand slam, Hyzdu hit two three-run homers, added a run-scoring single for a career-high seven RBIs and earned his second curtain call in as many nights at PNC Park.

Hyzdu led the Pirates to a 15-6 victory against St. Louis, which extended their second-half roll of eight wins in 10 games.

"It's just one of those things. You have to ride the wave. And right now, I'm on top of the wave," Hyzdu said. "It's humbling and flattering all at the same time. The response from the fans has been terrific."

Hyzdu's outburst was the kind that earned him folk-hero status in Altoona. He endured 11 seasons in the minors before reaching the majors, and that stint included having a bobblehead in his honor and having his jersey retired by the Curve.

"You know, it seems like every place he goes, they love him. They told me he could run for mayor in Altoona,"Manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He's an innocent kid. He enjoys playing the game. He plays it with reckless abandon -- which we're probably going to have to have a little chat about."

 
 
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The only fault McClendon could find in Hyzdu's performance came with two outs in the seventh. Brian Giles was chasing down a ball in left center when a charging Hyzdu called him off. He had to peel off at the last minute to avoid colliding with Giles, and the ball fell for a double that opened the gates for the Cardinals to score three runs off Ron Villone.

"What he did was a pretty special night," McClendon said. "I thought it was pretty darn good until he almost killed my All-Star left fielder."

After his second homer helped stake the Pirates to a 10-run lead, Hyzdu was called back out by an appreciative crowd. He pumped both arms in the air. But so magical was his night that the crowd of 35,101, which included a record walkup of 7,650 for PNC Park, gave him a standing ovation after he popped out to the shortstop in the seventh.

He became the first Pirate since Don Slaught nine years ago to drive in seven runs in a game. In the past two games, Hyzdu has seven hits, 11 RBIs and six runs scored while raising his average from .273 to .406.

His spree was more important since it came in back-to-back wins against the Cardinals that pulled the Pirates within 7 1/2 games of first place and five wins of .500.

"There's a heightened sense of urgency when you're playing a team you can gain ground on," Hyzdu said. "All games count the same, but you have to beat the teams that are better than you right now and bring them back to you. We've been doing that."

The Pirates were in control from the start, thanks to a five-run first that included Hyzdu's first homer of the game. Hyzdu also connected off reliever Dave Veres in the fifth.

There were other offensive highlights as Kevin Young and Pokey Reese extended their hitting streaks to 10 and nine games. Starting pitch Kris Benson delivered his first run-scoring hit since he had elbow surgery last year. And Abraham Nunez hit a solo home run for his second of the season, a career high.

The Pirates have scored 27 runs the past two games off the best team in the National League Central Division, and that came without Giles getting an RBI.

"If you would have told me that, I would have told you you were crazy," McClendon said. "It's a weird game. You never know what's going to happen day to day."

The Pirates have scored 70 runs in their past 10 games, a huge spike in production for a team that scuffled offensively through the first three months. They are no longer last in the National League in runs scored, home runs or team average, although their on-base percentage remains a league low.

"Offensively, we've picked it up quite a bit. We've swung the bats extremely well in the second half," McClendon said. "Our intensity level has been outstanding since the first day back from the break. Guys have gone at it pretty good.

"They're feeding off each other. A guy like Hyzdu comes out and swings the bat the way he does should relax other guys around him, and I think it has."

Benson, 3-0 with an earned run average of under 3.00 in his past five starts, was the beneficiary of the offensive outburst. The only run he allowed was a solo home run in the fourth inning by J.D. Drew.

Benson won his third consecutive decision, matching a career best first achieved in 1999. There were baserunners in every inning as he allowed eight hits and two walks. But Benson benefited from a double play started by Jack Wilson in the fourth, and catcher Jason Kendall threw out runners trying to steal in the first and third innings.

"I got the outs when I needed them," Benson said. "It was nice to have that cushion to work with in the first."

Villone gave up three runs on three hits in two innings, giving him six earned runs in the past two games. Josias Manzanillo allowed two runs in the eighth.

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