Dale Sveum hit his first homer in two years. An inning later, he hit another.
Chalk it up as one of those unexplainable nights.
Sveum, relegated to catching in the Yankees' bullpen last season, batted cleanup and hit two of Pittsburgh's five homers Wednesday night as the Pirates beat the Cincinnati Reds 12-6.
The Pirates' fourth five-homer game of the season had everything except a grand slam. Brian Giles hit a three-run homer, Ed Sprague had a solo shot, Al Martin added a two-run homer and Sveum hit a solo shot and a three-run homer.
"There's an old saying: You never know in baseball," Pirates manager Gene Lamont said. "You never know what's going to happen."
No one would have guessed this.
The Pirates had been struggling offensively all month, batting .214. They'd hit 15 homers, but 13 of them were solo shots.
Lamont decided to give Kevin Young a day of rest and made Sveum the cleanup hitter for the first time this season.
Sveum, called up from the minors on July 24, had not homered in the major leagues since Sept. 17, 1997. That streak ended when he hit a solo shot left-handed in the fifth. An inning later, he hit a three-run homer from the right side as the Pirates rolled to an eventual 12-2 lead.
Neither homer was a fluke. The first went 419 feet to right field, the second went 411 feet to left.
"Obviously there's a reason guys like me keep playing," Sveum said. "You feel you still have games like that left in you. I'm almost 36 years old and to be ablto do that again at this level ..."
"A year ago this time, I was catching in the bullpen for the Yankees. So sure, you sit back and you think, `What a fun night."'
It was no fun at all for Brett Tomko (4-6), who gave up the first three homers. Tomko is prone to give them up in bunches he's allowed three or more in a game four times this season, including a five-homer splurge by the Mets on June 16.
Tomko also gave up four homers to the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla., in a March 27 spring training game. Pittsburgh hit five in that game as well.
"I didn't have much off-speed, so I tried to throw my fastball and I got a few up," Tomko said. "You can't go with one pitch. I gave up a hit on a curve and a hit on a changeup so I abandoned them, which I probably shouldn't have."
Francisco Cordova (8-5) overcame a shaky first inning to get his fifth victory in six decisions. He took a 12-2 lead into the ninth and gave up four runs before leaving with one out.
Giles' 26th homer started the Pirates' home run barrage and made it 5-2 in the second. Sprague led off the third with his 21st homer and Sveum led off the fifth with a homer.
For an encore, the switch-hitting Sveum batted right-handed and hit a three-run homer in the sixth off Gabe White. It was the third time in his career that Sveum has homered from both sides of the plate, and the first since 1988.
Bobby Bonilla is the only other Pirates player to homer from both sides of the plate in a game, doing it twice in the 1980s.
Sveum did not hit a homer in 58 at-bats with the Yankees in 1998 and spent the first half of this season in the minors with Arizona and Pittsburgh.
"That's when you know you're having a bad night, when he hits two," Reds manager Jack McKeon said, adding, "Although he is a pretty good hitter."
Martin added his 20th homer in the eighth off Stan Belinda, completing the remarkable offensive breakout by the Pirates.
Both starters had wild first innings. Cordova got over his, but things just got worse for Tomko. He retired the game's first two batters before walking three in a row and throwing a wild pitch that made it 1-0.
©1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed