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Bailey falters at long-friendly PNC Park

Right-hander allows five runs (four earned) in 4 2/3 innings of work
MLB.com @m_sheldon

PITTSBURGH -- PNC Park was supposed to be Homer Bailey's happy place. As the only veteran pitcher in the young Reds rotation, Bailey also needs to lead the way in providing innings.

Yet in a 5-2 Reds loss to the Pirates on Thursday, Bailey was knocked out after 4 2/3 innings with five runs (four earned), seven hits, three walks (one intentional) and two strikeouts. The big blow came in the four-run fifth inning via Gregory Polanco's two-run homer that snapped a 1-1 tie.

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PITTSBURGH -- PNC Park was supposed to be Homer Bailey's happy place. As the only veteran pitcher in the young Reds rotation, Bailey also needs to lead the way in providing innings.

Yet in a 5-2 Reds loss to the Pirates on Thursday, Bailey was knocked out after 4 2/3 innings with five runs (four earned), seven hits, three walks (one intentional) and two strikeouts. The big blow came in the four-run fifth inning via Gregory Polanco's two-run homer that snapped a 1-1 tie.

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"I thought early, we did pretty good," Bailey said. "We were pitch efficient. The big difference was the one to Polanco that he hit out. It was the turnaround right there."

Entering the night, Bailey had a 2.48 ERA in 10 career starts in Pittsburgh, his best ERA in any ballpark he's pitched (minimum 45 innings). Even last season, after he endured a 6-9 record and 6.43 ERA in 18 starts following his return from a third elbow surgery, PNC Park was somewhat of a sanctuary, as he went 1-0 with one earned run allowed in six innings.

The Reds had gotten three quality starts out of their first four games, including six innings of one-run ball from Bailey on Opening Day. Until Thursday, the shortest outing was Luis Castillo's five innings, while Sal Romano and Tyler Mahle also worked six innings each. Last season, the Reds' rotation ranked last in the Majors in innings pitched.

Cincinnati held a 1-0 lead in the third inning when a Jordy Mercer leadoff double and Josh Harrison one-out single led to a Polanco sacrifice fly. As Pittsburgh turned over its lineup for a third time, trouble found Bailey, starting with a Harrison leadoff walk. Polanco followed with a first-pitch homer to straightaway center field on an 89 mph fastball left over the heart of the plate.

"I don't think Homer was nearly as sharp today as he was in the last game," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "That wasn't starting from the fifth inning as much as it was starting in the first. He made some good pitches down in the zone, I thought, the first time through the lineup. As he got in a little further in the game, it became apparent he didn't have his best command."

Video: CIN@PIT: Price on Reds' lack of offense in 5-2 loss

A Josh Bell one-out single kept the pressure on Bailey before Corey Dickerson ripped an RBI triple to the right-field corner. Dickerson scored on shortstop Jose Peraza's two-out fielding error and ended Bailey's night.

"It's a tough game to pitch. It's freezing," Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart said. "When a guy's splitter is his best out pitch and it's tough to grip based on how cold it is, it's tough to get a feel for that pitch as well as the breaking balls. When you can't necessarily feel the ball, it's tough to go after guys. It's like going after guys with one hand tied behind your back, I guess."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Brault's wild run allowed: Pirates starter Steven Brault gave up one earned run and three hits over five innings. When the Reds had two men on with two outs in the second inning and Barnhart batting, Brault threw a pair of wild pitches to Barnhart -- including one on ball four that scored Scooter Gennett for a 1-0 Reds lead.

Video: CIN@PIT: Gennett scores on wild pitch in the 1st

Duvall goes deep: The Pirates' bullpen kept the Reds quiet for most of the final four innings, but Adam Duvall tapped George Kontos' 2-0 pitch for a two-out solo homer to left field in the eighth inning. Otherwise, most of the lineup had a lackluster night and there were no extra-base hits besides the homer.

"Really, outside the Duvall homer, there wasn't a ton of hard contact tonight," Price said.

QUOTABLE
"It's tough to draw many conclusions. It's just part of it. You face three guys [on the Nationals] that are legitimate frontline starters all on one team and you have a day off, and then a rainout, and you come here on a cold night in Pittsburgh. It's just part of it. It's going to change, that's for sure." -- Barnhart, on the slow start for the Reds' offense that is batting .220 through five games with five homers and 47 strikeouts.

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The first-pitch temperature of the game was 43 degrees, which was the warmest game-time temperature the Pirates have played in so far this season.

WHAT'S NEXT
Castillo will be trying to bounce back from a rough 2018 debut when he pitches vs. the Pirates on Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Castillo lacked crisp command as he allowed a career-high six earned runs and six hits over five innings during a 13-7 loss to the Nationals. In two career starts vs. Pittsburgh, he is 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA.

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

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