Kang's first extra-base hit, RBIs could boost confidence

After slump, shortstop clears bases with double in clutch situation

Kang's first extra-base hit, RBIs could boost confidence

PITTSBURGH -- In a baseball sense, it was the height of disrespect: In the seventh inning of a tied game Tuesday night, the Cubs chose to intentionally walk the man batting in front of Jung Ho Kang -- even though first base was already occupied.

The walk thus not only loaded the bases, but pushed a second runner into scoring position. Cubs manager Joe Maddon's strategy was rational. In his first 16 Major League at-bats, Kang hadn't yet hit a ball hard.

Kang's response, in turn, was sensational: A drive to the base of the wall in right-center, clearing the bases, giving the Bucs a three-run lead and earning himself a standing ovation from the sparse PNC Park crowd.

"That felt good," Kang admitted.

The feel-good moment was essentially numbed by the killjoy Cubs' comeback 9-8 triumph.

Another way to look at it, of course, is that the Pirates will try to turn the page from the tough loss and move on. But Kang's clutch hit could have a more durable effect.

"That was really good. Fun to watch," manager Clint Hurdle said of Kang's first big league extra-base hit and his first three RBIs. "It was a big hit for us at the time, and it's gotta help his confidence moving forward.

"At the end of the day, you want to win. But you gotta hunt the good, too."

Kang was certainly aware of the Cubs' invitation for him to fail.

"I felt it was an opportunity to prove myself and show who I am," he said. "It was good, at first, because it gave our team the lead. But it turned out to be a loss, so that's bad."

Touching all the bases

• First: Infielder Justin Sellers (left heel) began his rehab assignment at Class A Advanced Bradenton on Monday with a 2-for-2 night while playing six innings at short.

• Second: With Josh Harrison (second leadoff homer of the season and fourth of his career) and Starling Marte homering Tuesday, the Bucs have out-homered the opposition 9-4 in the first eight games of this homestand.

• Third: The Pirates have scored in the first inning in four straight games.

• Home: Between allowing homers to Todd Frazier on Opening Day and Welington Castillo on Tuesday, Tony Watson had faced 21 men and retired 20 of them.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.