CINCINNATI -- Entering the home stretch of the season, the Reds will continue to look for positive signs from their young starting pitchers. Robert Stephenson gave them something to think about Friday night, striking out a career-high 11 batters in 5 2/3 innings as the Reds beat the Pirates, 9-5,
CINCINNATI -- Entering the home stretch of the season, the Reds will continue to look for positive signs from their young starting pitchers. Robert Stephenson gave them something to think about Friday night, striking out a career-high 11 batters in 5 2/3 innings as the Reds beat the Pirates, 9-5, at Great American Ball Park.
Stephenson began the night by striking out the first six batters he faced, a modern club record for Cincinnati.
"That was pretty cool," he said.
The 24-year-old right-hander, going by "Bob" for Players Weekend, gave up two runs on seven hits and four walks but kept the Bucs off balance with strikeout stuff.
"That might have been as good of a slider as I've seen in a long time," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "The slider played exceptionally well. Threw some good changeups, too. We hadn't seen that pitch from maybe anybody this year as far as the depth and tilt to the slider. It was an elite slider tonight."
Stephenson, who is trying to emerge among a group of young Reds starting pitchers that has struggled in 2017, has started to show signs of turning the corner. Over his last three starts and one relief appearance, he has a 1.96 ERA.
"I think a couple of mechanical tweaks in the bullpen and I've been a lot more consistent with my fastball," Stephenson said. "I feel like when I'm throwing more strikes with my fastball, it's a lot easier to get outs."
He had plenty of run support on Friday, too. Scott Schebler ("Scheb") homered, drove in three runs and reached base four times. Adam Duvall also homered in the fifth inning off Pirates starter Ivan Nova, who allowed seven runs (five earned) in five innings and saw his second-half ERA climb to an even 6.00.
"Obviously I didn't do the job I was supposed to," Nova said. "The fastball was missing over the plate. … I think the only thing that was working the way it was supposed to was the curveball. With one pitch, you cannot live. You have to have other pitches. They made me work really hard today."
First baseman Josh Bell ("JB") was a bright spot for the Pirates, ripping a three-run homer to left-center field to pull Pittsburgh to within two runs in the seventh inning. Reds pinch-hitter Patrick Kivlehan responded with a two-run double, sending the Pirates to their 10th loss in 13 games.
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See Scott run:Schebler finished a double shy of the cycle and got the hardest part out of the way first. With Eugenio Suarez at second base, Schebler ripped a line drive into the right-field corner. John Jaso chased the ball as it bounced around the warning track, and Schebler wheeled around to third base. He rounded third, but coach Billy Hatcher held him up, short of the inside-the-park homer. Schebler then scored on Tucker Barnhart's sacrifice fly.
Leave 'em loaded: Before Bell's seventh-inning homer, the Pirates threatened to rally in the sixth. The Bucs loaded the bases against Stephenson and sent up pinch-hitter Jose Osuna with two outs. The Reds summoned right-hander Tim Adleman from the bullpen, and Adleman defused the rally with six pitches. Osuna went down swinging at an 84.3-mph changeup to end the inning.
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"[Nova's] command, it's not where we've seen it in the past. … We need to peel back a couple more layers, talk about a couple things that you can do. He was able to pitch more effectively his last time out, not so much this time out."-- Hurdle
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"[Stephenson] had a nice mix going. I think he was able to establish the fastball. They had to respect the usage and the velocity and that opened up a lot of things for the slider, curve and split. He really was able to go out there and make good pitches. He retired the first six via the strikeout against a good lineup. It's not easy to do. And he made a series of really good pitches and was able to take that into the sixth." -- Reds manager Bryan Price
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Joey Votto led off the bottom of the eighth by drawing a walk against reliever Johnny Barbato, extending his season-high on-base streak to 29 games. That is the longest active on-base streak in the Majors.
Pirates: Right-hander Gerrit Cole ("Cole Train") will look for his first win against the Reds in 10 starts at 6:40 p.m. ET Saturday at Great American Ball Park. Cole is 0-6 with a 5.14 ERA against Cincinnati, though he recorded a quality start in a 4-3 loss earlier this season.
Reds:Luis Castillo will make his first career start vs. the Pirates when the series continues Saturday. Castillo has notched quality starts in six of his last nine outings but is winless in his last four starts.
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Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.
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.