Kang thrives in first Major League game at DH

Three-run home run to opposite field breaks open rout of Rangers

Kang thrives in first Major League game at DH

ARLINGTON -- Jung Ho Kang got a lot of work done on a "day off" Friday, taking advantage of a rare opportunity to start at designated hitter -- the first time he has ever done so in the Majors -- and pacing the Pirates' offense with a three-run homer that broke open a 9-1 victory over the Rangers in the opener of a three-game series.

"I'm pretty comfortable playing DH, today, especially," Kang said through an interpreter. "I didn't play defense, I really focused on my hitting, I think that helped a lot."

Since returning on May 6 from a severe knee injury he sustained in a game last September, Kang has 15 hits and 10 of them have gone for extra bases. He has five hits and five RBIs in his last two games. His three RBIs on Friday matched the season high he set in his 2016 season debut.

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Kang's opposite-field homer on Friday highlighted the Pirates' five-run fifth.

Pirates five-run fifth inning

Kang muscled a 1-0 pitch from Cole Hamels over the wall in right to put the Pirates up 5-1. Hamels, the Rangers' ace who had not lost in 12 consecutive decisions, didn't get out of the inning.

"That was a big swing from Kang," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Kang jumped all over that ball like he was looking out there, driving it into the right-field seats."

Kang seems to have a penchant for hitting in Interleague games, with multi-hit games in six consecutive meetings with American League clubs. That may be one reason why when Hurdle was looking for a good candidate to be a temporary DH during the Pirates' trip to Texas, Kang came to mind.

"As we asked questions and talked to him, he said, 'I'd be up for it,' and he was able to go up there tonight and get the big swing," Hurdle said.

Dave Sessions is a contributor to MLB.com who covered the Pirates on Friday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.