CINCINNATI -- The Pirates' first four hits, and runs, of Wednesday's game vs. the Reds came via home runs. But those weren't what won them the game in come-from-behind fashion by a 5-4 score. It was their two softer hits in the top of the ninth -- an infield single from Jung Ho Kang and a blooper by Jordy Mercer.
"It's a gritty win. I thought it was a very gutsy effort by our guys throughout the game," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It was an interesting game a lot of different ways."
Andrew McCutchen, David Freese and Kang each hit solo homers off Reds starter Alfredo Simon. Cincinnati still had a 4-3 lead in the eighth inning with two outs when Josh Harrison hit a 1-0 pitch from reliever Tony Cingrani to center field for the game-tying solo home run.
• First impressions: Bucs' Freese plan in place
In the top of the ninth against Ross Ohlendorf, Kang bounced a grounder near the middle of the infield. Shortstop Zack Cozart made a nice effort to get the ball, but his spin and throw was wide of Jordan Pacheco at first base and went into a camera well -- ruled a single and an error. Pacheco, an inexperienced first baseman filling in for the rested Joey Votto, tried stretching for the catch instead of coming off the bag.
"In the end, it's a tough play either way," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He's trying to get the out. You don't see that very often. You're really trying to get that out to the best of your ability. I thought he put everything he had into trying to catch that ball and hold the bag. It just didn't happen. I'm not putting anything on Jordan for that."
Following a sacrifice bunt by Sean Rodriguez, the infield was in when Mercer's bloop RBI single over Pacheco's head fell into short right field for the go-ahead run.
"Just trying to get a ball up, get a ball in the air," Mercer said. "You know he's going to come at you in that situation. Luckily it worked out."
Tony Watson earned the victory with a scoreless eighth inning of relief, while Mark Melancon collected his 10th save -- putting two men on, including the go-ahead run with two outs, before Tucker Barnhart struck out to end it.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
HBP's; benches warned: On a 3-0 count with two outs in the top of the fourth inning, Simon went inside with a pitch to Francisco Cervelli and knocked him down for the walk. On the very next pitch, Simon plunked Kang with a pitch on the back. To begin the bottom of the fourth, Nicasio returned the favor by plunking Brandon Phillips with his first pitch, and that drew warnings to both benches by home-plate umpire Jeff Kellogg.
All told, there were six hit-by-pitches recorded, with the Pirates being plunked four times. Ohlendorf and Price were ejected when Ohlendorf hit Freese on the hand with a 2-0 fastball in the ninth.
"I didn't really have a beef with the ejection, because after all the hit-by-pitches, at some point in time he's got to run somebody out of there," Price said. More >
Bruce makes Nicasio pay: Right after Phillips was hit by the pitch, Jay Bruce cashed in with a two-run home run off the end of his bat on a 3-1 pitch high and outside. The ball barely cleared the left-field fence, but it gave Bruce his 126th homer hit at Great American Ball Park, tying Adam Dunn for most all-time.
Kang Show, Part 3: Kang brought the Pirates within a run in the seventh inning, launching his third home run to left field off Simon. Kang hit a pair of homers in his season debut on Friday -- his first game since Sept. 17, when he underwent surgery to repair a pair of left knee injuries -- and continued to display the power stroke he showed as a rookie last season.
Cutch happening: After another disappointing April at the plate, McCutchen appears to be heating up. He extended his hitting streak to six games with a solo shot to right field in the fourth inning, his team-leading seventh home run. Historically, it's been a good sign for McCutchen when he's able to hit for power to the opposite field, so perhaps this is the beginning of another hot stretch for the Pirates' star center fielder.
"I'm just going to keep writing his name in the lineup, letting him play, and hopefully we'll keep talking about him," Hurdle said.
"Tony has thrown the ball really, really well, particularly of late. It seems right now that if we get a ball up in the zone, and opposing hitters put it in play, the ball goes out of the ballpark. It's not a base hit to right, it's not a ground-ball single up the middle, it's a homer. It's a phenomenon like I haven't seen." -- Price, on Cingrani, who came in with a streak of 5 1/3 scoreless innings over his last four appearances.
"Now I'm getting hit so much that it's affecting my at-bat, the way I position myself, the way I'm reading pitches. So yeah, it is frustrating." -- Starling Marte, who has been hit by seven pitches this season
• Hamilton plays day after nephew's tragic death
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
• During their nine-game homestand, the Reds and their opponents (Giants, Brewers, Pirates) combined to hit 36 home runs. That is tied for the second-most homers during a Cincinnati homestand of 10 games or fewer. It last happened in August 2006, while the high mark of 40 homers was set in July 2005.
"Sometimes that's what happens in this ballpark. But it's certainly not the ballpark to blame. We're a better pitching staff than that," Price said.
• The Pirates' four HBP's were one shy of their franchise record. That was set way back on April 23, 1890, when the Pirates were plunked five times by the Cleveland Spiders.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW / PIRATES EJECTIONS
• Kang was batting with two outs in the top of the sixth, when Marte appeared to successfully steal second base just ahead of a tag from Phillips, who disputed the safe call by umpire Alan Porter. The Reds challenged, and Porter's call was overturned when the replay showed Marte did not maintain contact with the bag as Phillips applied the tag. Marte and Hurdle argued the overturned call and were ejected.
"I'm going to make a couple phone calls tomorrow," Hurdle said. "For Marte to get thrown, that complicated things for me." More >
• In the bottom of the seventh, Adam Duvall was called out trying to steal second base by Porter. The Reds also challenged that call but were unsuccessful. Following the review, it was determined that the call stood.
Pirates: After an off-day in Chicago on Thursday, the Pirates will begin a three-game series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field at 2:20 p.m. ET on Friday. Left-hander Francisco Liriano will open the series against Cubs right-hander Jason Hammel. The Cubs swept the Pirates -- and outscored them, 20-5 -- when the NL Central rivals met at PNC Park last week.
Reds: Following an off-day on Thursday, the Reds open a five-game road trip Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Brandon Finnegan will make the start against Jeremy Hellickson. Finnegan gave up two earned runs and three hits over six innings the last time he faced the Phillies on April 6.
Watch every out-of-market regular season game live on MLB.TV.