Pirates' 7-run 4th helps sink Reds in opener
PITTSBURGH -- Francisco Cervelli launched a three-run homer, Andrew McCutchen ripped a two-run shot and the Pirates rode a seven-run fourth inning to a 7-6 win over the Reds on Tuesday night at PNC Park.
After scoring only three runs and getting no-hit by Max Scherzer while being swept by the Nationals over the weekend, the Bucs finally broke out back home. Cincinnati jumped out to an early lead, scoring four runs against Pittsburgh starter Jeff Locke, but Cervelli's three-run blast to center tied the game and McCutchen's ninth homer of the year completed the Pirates' big inning.
"You lose like we did against the Nationals, you're pretty amped up after that [Monday] off-day to be back in front of your home crowd and ready to go," McCutchen said. "Got somewhat off to a slow start, but that's why you play a full game."
Locke lasted only four innings and left with a no-decision, but five Pittsburgh relievers combined to allow only two runs over five innings. Closer Mark Melancon picked up his Major League-leading 24th save in a scoreless ninth.
"You strike out six to end the game. That shortened the game right there, with Watson and Melancon," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Reds starter Josh Smith, making his Major League debut, held the Pirates hitless for three innings, albeit with five walks, before giving up four runs without getting an out in the fourth. He did record his first Major League hit with a single to lead off the second inning.
"For sure, it's nice to get that first one out of the way and focus on the next one and the one after that. Hopefully a lot more down the line," Smith said.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
That's amore: Josh Harrison broke the Pirates' hitless streak, and Pedro Alvarez got the Bucs on the board first. But it was Cervelli who delivered Pittsburgh's most important hit in the fourth inning, crushing a three-run homer projected by Statcast™ to land 406 feet away, to center field off Smith.
"I thought it was a big hit -- a big swing of the bat," Hurdle said. "Someone was able to step up and do something." More >
Thrown away: After Gregory Polanco tripled with two outs in the fourth, Starling Marte dribbled what should have been an inning-ending ground ball to Reds shortstop Eugenio Suarez. But Suarez's throw sailed past Joey Votto, allowing Polanco to score the go-ahead run and bringing McCutchen to the plate. The star center fielder launched his ninth homer to left field, completing the Bucs' seven-run rally.
Loaded question: In the first four innings, Jay Bruce batted with the bases loaded twice. Bruce drove in two runs, but could have fared better. His RBI single in the top of the first made it a 3-0 game. He grounded to first base to end the second inning and his RBI groundout in the fourth gave Cincinnati a 4-0 lead. Leading off the sixth, Bruce hit a homer to right-center field that put his team within a run, 7-6.
"No matter what, we've got to find a way to get a quarter of them in, some kind of way," Frazier said. "We left too many on."
Marte saves a run: With Billy Hamilton at third base and two outs in the seventh inning, Reds third baseman Todd Frazier pulled a sinking line drive into left field off reliever Arquimedes Caminero. If the ball found grass, Hamilton would have dashed home and tied the game. But Marte made sure it didn't, diving headfirst and coming up with the run-saving grab to end the inning.
"He made a good play, a really good play," Frazier said. "Nothing you can do about it. I hit the ball hard, that's what I strive to do. I got a mistake pitch. I didn't get underneath it, but I hit it really hard and down, but Marte's been doing that for a long time now. Just a little frustrated, wish it would have gotten down, but you've got to give credit where it's due." More >
"No. I don't hit that many, so sometimes I don't know." -- Cervelli, on if he knew his third homer of the year was gone when it left his bat
"You know, working out will get you all amped up. If I get knocked down like that, I'll definitely get a couple in. That pumped me up a little bit." -- McCutchen, on doing pushups in the batter's box after an up-and-in pitch forced him to the dirt in the sixth
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The last time the Reds' pitching staff allowed seven runs in an inning was May 20, 2014, when it happened vs. the Nationals in the bottom of the sixth during a 9-4 loss.
The Pirates' seven-run fourth inning was their highest-scoring inning in more than a year. It was the Bucs' biggest offensive output in any frame since they put together an eight-run sixth against the Brewers on June 6, 2014.
The first inning could have been even worse for Locke. After the Reds took a 1-0 lead on four straight hits to begin the game, Marlon Byrd knocked a ground ball to Harrison at third base. Harrison threw to Cervelli to force out Votto at home, but Votto was initially ruled safe. The Pirates challenged the call, and it was overturned. Cervelli's foot was not touching home plate, but he tapped it before Votto slid home.
In the bottom of the third inning, the Reds successfully challenged after Polanco was called safe at second base with a stolen base by second-base umpire Chris Conroy. Officials overturned the call after the replay showed Brandon Phillips had applied a tag on Polanco's left hip.
Cincinnati made it 2-for-2 in challenges in the sixth when Polanco stole second base again. During the challenge, the replay showed Polanco popped up off the bag on his slide when Phillips tagged him on the left thigh. The call was overturned.
"He made a couple of big calls at second base," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "The second one was a great job by both -- Rob in the video room and Brandon by keeping the tag on Polanco in order to get that."
Reds: Mike Leake will get the ball for Cincinnati Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. ET in the second game of the series. Leake, who threw seven scoreless innings with two hits allowed vs. the Marlins on Friday, hasn't lost to the Pirates since May 5, 2012, going 6-0 with a 3.21 ERA in the 15 starts over that span.
Pirates: Right-hander Gerrit Cole, the Major League leader in wins, will take the mound looking for his 12th victory of the season. Cole has recorded wins in each of his last six starts while posting a 1.06 ERA. Cole has given up more than two earned runs only twice in 15 starts this year, with both of those outings coming against the Reds.
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