PITTSBURGH -- The Pirates' September slide continued Sunday afternoon with the Reds' 8-0 win at PNC Park. Still mathematically alive in the National League Wild Card race, but fading fast with little time remaining, Pittsburgh has dropped 11 of its past 13 games.
At a time where the Bucs can afford few, if any, mistakes, they made plenty. Andrew McCutchen's defensive miscues sparked a five-run second inning for the Reds. Granted two opportunities with the bases loaded against Cincinnati left-hander Brandon Finnegan, the Bucs whiffed away both of them. Finnegan pitched around five hits and five walks, striking out seven over five scoreless innings.
"It was a Houdini act today, because we got him the big lead today and he scuffled to keep guys off base and command his stuff," Reds manager Bryan Price said of Finnegan. "At the same time, he pitched himself out of constant trouble. Certainly not a recipe for long-term success, however, he could have broke and forced into a situation. We had a shortened bullpen. It would have been disastrous for us to go to [a reliever] in the second or third inning, and that could have happened very easily had he not gotten his act together."
Right-hander Ryan Vogelsong couldn't pitch past the Pirates' mistakes or a few of his own, surrendering six runs on seven hits and three walks in four innings.
"I just got out of whack out there for some reason," Vogelsong said. "I couldn't find a rhythm, couldn't find my delivery. It's been a while since something like that's happened to me. … Every adjustment I made didn't work. After that, it was just trying to survive."
Tyler Holt and Brandon Phillips led the Reds lineup with three hits apiece, and Cincinnati's three relievers kept Pittsburgh off the board as the Reds took three of four games to win the series. Meanwhile, the Pirates fell to three games below .500 and, with the Mets' win over the Braves, six games out of the second National League Wild Card spot with 21 games left on their schedule. The Bucs went 2-8 during a 10-game homestand against the Brewers, Cardinals and Reds.
"Bear down, that's what we can do," McCutchen said. "That's what we're going to try to do, go out and try to keep going. Got to finish strong. Twenty-one games, so let's go. … Wash it off, get ready."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Five-spot: The five-run second inning started with an Adam Duvall triple but was aided by a pair of defensive issues for McCutchen in center field. Phillips followed Duvall with a line drive to center field, where it got through McCutchen's legs and rolled to the wall. Phillips was credited with an RBI single and reached third base on the error. Later in the inning with two outs, Holt's drive got by a diving McCutchen and to the wall for a two-run triple that made it 5-0. Holt finished with a three-hit game and was a home run shy of the cycle.
"The home run would have been pushing it," said Holt, who has never homered in the big leagues. "The double and triple was pushing it. Just a great team effort. Quick turnaround, and Finny goes five strong. Not his best, but when you have a bunch of guys out there battling, not giving up on the season and trying to win ballgames, good things happen."
Missed opportunities: The Pirates wasted two ideal scoring chances, loading the bases twice without getting a run in either inning. They packed the bases full with no outs in the second, then Finnegan struck out Chris Stewart and Vogelsong and got Jordy Mercer to pop out to Joey Votto.
"You need one hit to maybe bust it. You don't get it, you see what happens," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "You get a couple hits, and that's a couple crazy crooked numbers. We weren't able to punch through and get that big hit off him."
The Bucs loaded the bases again in the fifth with one out, but David Freese and Adam Frazier struck out to strand the runners. Pittsburgh began the day with a .262 average in 141 at-bats with the bases loaded.
"The last two starts I haven't had my best command at all, but I seem to kind of lock down both times I got the bases loaded," said Finnegan, who is 9-10 with a 4.04 ERA in 29 starts. "I just tried to throw it over the plate and get them to hit into outs. Luckily they weren't really able to put it in play."
Three-peat for Phillips: For the second game in a row, it was a three-hit day for Phillips, who was 3-for-5 with two RBIs and three runs scored. Phillips added a leadoff double to right field in the third inning and blooped another leadoff double near the right-field line in the fifth. In 32 games since Aug. 3, he is batting .374 (46-for-123).
Breaking Glasnow:Top prospectTyler Glasnow, recently named MLBPipeline.com's Pitcher of the Year, made his first appearance since being recalled by the Pirates from Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday -- and his first relief appearance since rookie ball in 2012. The tall right-hander pitched well for three innings, allowing three hits and one run while striking out three without a walk, but he ran into a wall in his fourth inning. Glasnow loaded the bases without recording an out, and reliever Jared Hughes allowed one of the inherited runners to score before escaping the jam.
"I think it was good experience for him getting up and getting into it and dealing with it in a very professional fashion," Hurdle said. "We were able to get him in a game and get him some positive movement forward."
"The Pirates are always good. They have a good-hitting team. The Reds and Pirates don't really get along very well. It's nice beating any team, especially winning a series. It was nice beating them, but we've got to keep going. We've got them in a week again, so let's see what we can do at home." -- Finnegan
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Pirates fell to 36-38 at home this season a year after going 53-28 at PNC Park. The Bucs have lost 13 of their last 16 home games. They have seven home games remaining -- against the Nationals and Cubs -- putting them at risk of finishing below. 500 in Pittsburgh for the first time since 2011.
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"When you don't meet the demands of the game, it doesn't matter if you're at home, on the road, in your backyard or across the street," Hurdle said. "We have had very good success at home, but that doesn't mean you're just going to have success at home. You've got to earn it."
Pirates left fielder Gregory Polanco was ejected by home-plate umpire Pat Hoberg in the third inning for arguing an inning-ending strike call. After getting ahead 3-1 in the count, Polanco went down looking at two low sinkers on the edge of the strike zone. Both pitches appeared to be strikes, and quality pitches by Finnegan, but Polanco disagreed. It was his first career ejection in the Majors. According to Hurdle, Hoberg said he asked Polanco to go back to the dugout four times and Polanco continued to argue.
"When he wants to argue, he can argue," Hurdle said. "It got to the point where Pat said he'd had enough and he asked him to leave, and he didn't."
Reds: Following the short road trip, the Reds return home to face the Brewers in a three-game series that starts at 7:10 p.m. ET Monday. With Anthony DeSclafani being skipped for one turn of the rotation, Keyvius Sampson will step in for the start. Sampson pitched five innings of one-run relief the last time he faced the Brewers on Aug. 14.
Pirates: Right-hander Gerrit Cole will return to the Pirates rotation as they begin a four-game series against the Phillies at 7:05 p.m. ET on Monday night at Citizens Bank Park. Cole, sidelined since Aug. 25 due to right elbow inflammation, went 0-3 with a 7.06 ERA while allowing 34 hits in 21 2/3 innings over his last four starts.
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