PITTSBURGH -- Besides his struggles last year, Matt Joyce said he enjoyed his time as an Angel. He also enjoyed launching a three-run home run to center field, giving the Pirates a five-run lead vs. his old team on Saturday.
"More so for me to kind of come up in a bigger spot against a lefty and to come up for a bit for our team, and obviously those runs really ended up being huge for us at the end of the game," Joyce said. "So I think that made it a little bit more special."
A five-run seventh inning, highlighted by Joyce's shot off left-hander Greg Mahle's sidearm fastball, gave the Pirates just enough cushion to withstand a four-run comeback by the Angels in the eighth. Pittsburgh held on to win, 8-7, avoiding a season-high five-game losing streak.
This season has featured a remarkable turnaround by Joyce, who was an All-Star in 2011 with the Rays but spent 2015 with the Angels batting .174/.272/.291. He signed a Minor League contract with the Pirates with an invitation to Major League camp in the spring. Joyce made the 25-man roster and has hit four pinch-hit home runs this season.
Joyce played winter ball in the Dominican Republic and won the respect of Pirates manager Clint Hurdle for his work ethic.
"This guy was down there to work and find his way back," Hurdle said. "He was there with purpose and intent. He got in a good place with his swing, with his planting, working with the guys in the winter and getting some action down there."
There may not be much wiggle room to fit Joyce into an outfield consisting of Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Gregory Polanco. Clearly, though, Joyce has found a way onto the field as a backup outfielder and pinch-hitter, even if it's in a smaller capacity than he'd like.
"It's definitely tough to crack and sometimes a little frustrating," Joyce said. "Because I feel good and I'm excited to get in there and I want to play, obviously. But it's also really fun to watch those guys go out there every night and see how extremely talented they are on a day in, day out basis."
Sarah K. Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.