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Taillon done in by slam as Bucs lose 4th in a row

MLB.com @adamdberry

CINCINNATI -- With runners on second and third and one out in the fifth inning on Tuesday night, the Pirates had to make a decision. Should Jameson Taillon face Joey Votto with a base open, or Scooter Gennett with the bases loaded?

Pittsburgh decided to bypass Votto with an intentional walk, bringing up Gennett, and Cincinnati's slugging second baseman made the Pirates pay. Gennett launched his sixth career grand slam out to right field, sending the Reds to a 7-2 win at Great American Ball Park and the Bucs to their fourth straight loss.

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CINCINNATI -- With runners on second and third and one out in the fifth inning on Tuesday night, the Pirates had to make a decision. Should Jameson Taillon face Joey Votto with a base open, or Scooter Gennett with the bases loaded?

Pittsburgh decided to bypass Votto with an intentional walk, bringing up Gennett, and Cincinnati's slugging second baseman made the Pirates pay. Gennett launched his sixth career grand slam out to right field, sending the Reds to a 7-2 win at Great American Ball Park and the Bucs to their fourth straight loss.

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"I'm responsible for putting Votto on. There's no doubt it's a decision that didn't work out," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "When you talk about a fine line between having a game on your hands then the game getting separated, that's a four-run swing right there."

Walking Votto set up a forceout at any base, but there was more to Hurdle's decision than that. While Gennett entered the night with a higher average and OPS than Votto this season, he'd also grounded into six double plays and drawn only nine walks. The Pirates were looking for a double play or a strikeout, and Taillon had some of his best swing-and-miss stuff.

"We thought he was going to be swinging first pitch there, aggressive with runners in scoring position," Taillon said. "We had a double-play opportunity. We thought first-pitch swinging, we'll go changeup, put him on the ground. That's just where it comes down to executing."

Taillon wanted the pitch further down and away, but it veered inside and Gennett clobbered it a projected 411 feet, according to Statcast™, into the right-field seats. Just like that, the Reds' lead grew from one to five, and Taillon's numbers no longer matched the way he felt. He struck out eight over six innings, and his only walk was the intentional free pass to Votto.

Video: PIT@CIN: Gennett hits a grand slam in the 5th

"I might lose sleep over a couple pitch-execution choices there in the fifth, but overall, I felt like I threw the ball really well," Taillon said. "Just a couple pitches, a couple hits they strung together. That's how you do damage."

While Gennett made the most of the Reds' chances with the bases loaded, the Pirates didn't capitalize on their own such opportunities. They packed the bases full with one out in Matt Harvey's 30-pitch first inning but didn't score, as Corey Dickerson flied out to center on the first pitch and Colin Moran struck out. Harvey wound up pitching six innings and allowed only one run on a Moran homer, for his first quality start of the season.

After Austin Meadows homered for the second time in as many games, the Bucs again loaded the bases with one out in the seventh. Gregory Polanco popped out and Francisco Cervelli grounded out to end the threat.

Video: PIT@CIN: Meadows clubs a homer to right in the 7th

"Those are situations where we've had some success. Right now, it's working a little bit the other way on us, which can make the game harder," Hurdle said. "You throw a ball in the gap in both those situations, we've got a different situation on our hands for the ballgame."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Misread in right: Gennett came to the plate in the first inning with two outs and Tucker Barnhart on first. He hit a fly ball to right-center field off Taillon that, according to Statcast™, had a 10 percent hit probability and a 58 percent catch probability. But Polanco took a few steps in, lost the ball in the lights and could only chase after the ball as it rolled to the warning track.

"I lost it. I tried to do my best," Polanco said. "I was waiting to see it, and I had a bad jump. I went a little forward, two steps forward and to the right, because I couldn't see it. … I was trying to get it, but it was too late."

Taillon raised his hands at his sides in exasperation as what might have been the third out of the inning instead slipped into the gap for an RBI double. Eugenio Suarez drove in Gennett with a double to left, giving the Reds a two-run lead.

"I don't know what happened," Taillon said. "I thought I made a good pitch there, and when it was off the bat, I thought that had zero chance of falling. When it did, I was kind of caught off guard there."

Video: PIT@CIN: Gennett drives in a run with double to right

SOUND SMART
Only four Pirates since 1908 hit two home runs in the first four games of their career: Walter Mueller (1922), R C Stevens ('58), Dick Stuart ('58) and Meadows, who hit only one home run in 32 games for Triple-A Indianapolis this season.

"The lights are brighter. You can see the ball a lot better," Meadows said. "That's been the main thing for me, being able to see the ball, being able to see the spin on the ball. Guys are going to come at you. That's kind of how it is up here. With that mindset of being aggressive and being ready, I'll take advantage of those early strikes."

YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Moran provided one of two offensive highlights for the Pirates with one of the more unusual home runs of the season. Down 0-2 in the count against Harvey in the fourth inning, Moran swung at a high, 95-mph fastball and lashed it into the right-field seats.

Video: PIT@CIN: Moran homers to right on 4.45-ft. high pitch

"He handles that ball up there," Hurdle said. "He hunts that ball up there every now and then."

The pitch was 4.45 feet above the ground, by far the highest for any home run this season. (The previous high was 3.86 feet.) It was the second-highest pitch hit for a home run since the beginning of 2015 and the highest by a lefty batter. The only one higher during that time was slugged by Mark Trumbo (4.57 feet on May 8, 2017).

"It was up there," Harvey said.

UP NEXT
Chad Kuhl will start on Wednesday as the Pirates take on the Reds at Great American Ball Park. Kuhl gave up four runs in 4 1/3 innings on Thursday, but owns a 3.24 ERA in three starts vs. the Reds. Homer Bailey will start for Cincinnati at 7:10 p.m. ET.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Austin Meadows, Jameson Taillon