Home is where homers are for Harrison

Home is where homers are for Harrison

CINCINNATI -- Josh Harrison was born and raised in this city. He attended the University of Cincinnati, a few miles north of Great American Ball Park. Every time the Pirates play in his hometown, Harrison has his own personal cheering section. He looked at home Monday night, too.

With about a dozen family members and friends in attendance, Harrison hit two solo home runs against the Reds. But his first career multi-homer game was not enough. The rest of the Pirates' lineup went hitless after the first inning, and the Bucs paid for their mistakes as they lost, 4-3, in 10 innings.

"It's always nice to be back home," Harrison said. "Get to sleep in your own bed, see some family and friends and get to do what I love."

The Pirates' first multi-homer performance of the season improved Harrison's triple-slash line to .313/.383/.506 after his first 24 games. He's hit four home runs, tied with Josh Bell and Andrew McCutchen for the team lead, and his strikeout rate is down from years past.

"You get pitches to hit, don't miss 'em," Harrison said. "Finally healthy and able to get pitches and not miss them."

Health has been a focal point for Harrison since the day he reported to Spring Training. He had surgery in July 2015 to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb. He rushed back, at less than 100 percent, to finish that season. Early on last season, especially in cold weather, Harrison's thumb grew stiff. The soreness subsided late last year, but a groin strain ended his season early.

Harrison's first homer on Monday was unlikely, statistically, but he capitalized on his hometown's hitter-friendly ballpark. Leading off the sixth inning, Harrison worked a 3-1 count then swung at a 91.2-mph fastball from Amir Garrett. It was up, but it was on the other edge of the plate, maybe even out of the strike zone.

According to Statcast™, the ball came off Harrison's bat at 95.3 mph with a launch angle of 38 degrees and a Hit Probability of just 9 percent. It landed over the fence in right field.

"He just went with it and put a great swing on it," Garrett said. "He put it out."

With two outs in the eighth and the Pirates trailing by a run, Harrison pulled Drew Storen's 2-2 slider deep to left-center field. The pitch was left up in the zone, and Harrison swatted the game-tying shot a projected 368 feet, according to Statcast™.

But Harrison's homers accounted for the entirety of the Pirates' offense after McCutchen's first-inning solo shot. They finished with three hits, the home runs by McCutchen and Harrison.

"That's the theme," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Josh saw [Garrett] better than others."

Setup man Daniel Hudson lost the game in the 10th with a walk, an errant pickoff throw and a double served up to Billy Hamilton with two outs. If the game had gone to an 11th inning, Harrison was due to lead off for the Pirates.

"One to right, one to left," Hurdle said. "Would have liked to have gotten him up another time."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.