PITTSBURGH -- When Reds starting pitcher Matt Harvey doesn't give up a run-scoring hit while pitching into the sixth inning, that would seem to have the makings of a winning night. But that wasn't the case on Friday vs. the Pirates.Harvey had to dodge some danger, but pitched decently. Pirates
PITTSBURGH -- When Reds starting pitcher Matt Harvey doesn't give up a run-scoring hit while pitching into the sixth inning, that would seem to have the makings of a winning night. But that wasn't the case on Friday vs. the Pirates.
Harvey had to dodge some danger, but pitched decently. Pirates starter Chad Kuhl had to dodge a lot more danger and did it well to help send the Reds to a 3-2 defeat against Pittsburgh at PNC Park. Cincinnati, which ended a three-game win streak, was 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left 10 on base. The Pirates notched a pair of sacrifice flies in the sixth for the tying and go-ahead runs.
"It's a tough one, when your starter goes out there and throws a game like that and you're not able to give him some insurance runs in the middle part of that game," said Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett, who hit a sacrifice fly in the third inning. "The credit goes to Kuhl; he did a great job tonight. He was able to minimize some of the damage there."
Harvey finished with five-plus innings, three earned runs, four hits, two walks and two strikeouts while throwing 100 pitches. The Reds have lost each of his last four starts.
"I felt like the ball was coming out of his hand maybe as good as any time we've seen," Reds interim manager Jim Riggleman said. "The velocity was up. He almost felt too strong, maybe. He was throwing a little bit instead of pitching there for a while. Thus, the five innings, 100 pitches. It's great to see him healthy and firing, but his pitches were a little bit out of the zone and that got his pitch count up."
Harvey breezed quickly through a 1-2-3 bottom of the first, but his tempo slowed in the second and he labored as he pitched into trouble. Colin Moran and Francisco Cervelli started the inning with walks and Josh Bell hit a single to load the bases with no outs.
"It's kind of the thing we've been working on the last couple of weeks in between starts -- getting a little bit quicker of a tempo mechanically," Harvey said. "I came back and watched after my outing was over. The first inning, the tempo was a lot quicker. The second, it kind of slowed down and I got into some trouble trying to be a little bit too fine. It's just a matter of keeping that rhythm and getting locked in earlier and keeping that going throughout the start."
Harvey was able to minimize the damage, however. A sharp line drive by Gregory Polanco handcuffed shortstop Jose Peraza, who couldn't make the catch but was able to turn a double play as Moran scored the game's first run. Jordy Mercer flied out and Harvey pulled off a pretty good escape.
"It gave us a chance. In the past, that could have gone the other way pretty quickly," Harvey said.
That started a stretch where Harvey retired 10 of 11 batters until the pivotal sixth inning. Now 1-5 with a 5.92 ERA in 15 games (11 starts), Harvey has shown modest improvements since his May trade to the Reds from the Mets. According to Statcast™, entering the game, Harvey's fastball velocity inched up from 92.3 to 93.9 mph. His strike percentage went from 16.3 to 18.6 percent and his walk rate went from 7.3 to 6.2 percent. Only his whiff rate dropped slightly, from 8.2 to 7.7 percent.
Meanwhile, the Reds couldn't capitalize on their opportunities at the plate. Beginning with the top of the second, Cincy's leadoff man reached base for five consecutive innings. But they couldn't cash in enough.
Against Kuhl in the third, Scott Schebler hit a leadoff single and went to third base on Joey Votto's one-out double off the wall in left-center field. Gennett tied the game with a sacrifice fly and Eugenio Suarez walked to extend the inning. But Jesse Winker flied out to keep the game tied.
Poor Pirates defense gave the Reds the lead in the fourth. Following back-to-back singles, Harvey bunted toward the mound. Kuhl went for the out at third base, but made a bad throw for an error that allowed Adam Duvall to score. Kuhl was able to strike out Schebler and Tucker Barnhart and got a groundout from Votto. Gennett opened the fifth inning with a bunt and reached when Bell missed catcher Cervelli's throw for an error. Gennett reached third base with two outs but couldn't score.
"I think it's one of those ones where both clubs feel like they let the other club off the hook. But we certainly did," Riggleman said.
Harvey returned for the sixth inning to try to hold the one-run lead, but he couldn't get an out when his first two batters reached on singles. Lefty reliever Wandy Peralta hit his lone batter, Corey Dickerson, with a pitch to load the bases with no outs. Michael Lorenzen took over in the tough situation and gave up sacrifice flies to Starling Marte and Moran for the Pittsburgh lead.
"I'm just frustrated about the whole outing," Harvey said. "It was kind of a struggle the whole time. Getting into the sixth inning, having a lead and letting two guys get on is just not acceptable. It's something I'm very [mad] about. Other than that, it was good to get through some trouble there in the second."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Peralta falters: Peralta, who had a breakout season in 2017, has suffered through inconsistency in '18. Hitting Dickerson with a 1-0 pitch to load the bases had consequences that ultimately turned the game against Cincinnati. In his staff-leading 36 games, the left-hander has a 4.60 ERA with 24 walks and two hit batters over 29 1/3 innings while striking out 21.
"He was in there to face the one guy. Then we were going to go to Mike to get to Marte," Riggleman said. "Wandy has been such a horse here in the last year, year and a half. He's really given us some great performances, so we just have confidence he's going to get out of this funk. But we have to get an out out of that at-bat whether he hits a fly ball, hits a ground ball, whatever. We just have to get an out somewhere on that one and maybe we can come out of there with one run."
Vazquez foils Votto, again: A Barnhart two-out single and a stolen base by pinch-runner Billy Hamilton put the potential tying run on second base for the Reds in the top of the ninth inning against closer Felipe Vazquez. Votto was unable to capitalize as he struck out trying to check his swing against Vazquez. That left Votto 0-for-6 in his career against Vazquez, on six strikeouts. He has walked against him three times.
Lorenzen pitched three solid innings with two hits, one walk and two strikeouts. He's now pitched multiple innings in five of his last six appearances. That includes a four-inning save vs. the Padres on June 1. The right-hander has a 1.59 ERA in nine games since returning on May 22 from a strained right shoulder suffered during Spring Training.
"He saved the rest of the bullpen by being able to do what he does," Riggleman said.
In a 4:05 p.m. ET first pitch on Saturday at PNC Park, the Reds will send Luis Castillo to pitch against Pittsburgh's Ivan Nova. In a 6-4 loss to the Cardinals last Saturday, Castillo matched a career high with 10 strikeouts while pitching six innings. But he struggled early and three of his four hits allowed were for extra bases. He retired 10 of his last 11 batters, however.
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.