Frazier's go-ahead homer spurs Reds over Bucs
Cueto labors, but big nights from Hamilton, Votto set stage for heroics
PITTSBURGH -- The contrast of PNC Park's reaction to two fly balls hit by Todd Frazier and Clint Barmes in the ninth inning could not have been more distinct.
Frazier belted a no-doubt go-ahead solo homer toward the Pittsburgh skyline in the top of the inning, silencing the crowd. When Barmes lifted an Aroldis Chapman fastball deep to left field with two men on base, there was a hopeful, boisterous outburst from those of the 23,565 who stuck around to watch the end of a nearly four-hour affair.
The cheers were short-lived.
Barmes' drive was caught at the wall by Chris Heisey, and the Reds beat the Pirates, 6-5, on Tuesday night to take over third place in the National League Central.
"Don't mess it up," said Heisey, a seventh-inning defensive substitute, on what was going through his mind. "You're in there for a defensive replacement late in the game -- somehow the ball finds you, I guess. Right when it was hit, I thought I had a good chance. But as I was going back, I kind of thought I would run out of room. Fortunately for us, it stayed in the yard."
Hesiey's warning-track grab concluded what were a dizzying final three innings. Reds relievers coughed up a three-run lead in the seventh and Chapman came close to blowing what turned out to be his 12th save. However, Frazier's home run off Pirates closer Jason Grilli to lead off the ninth, his 16th of the season, bailed out the Cincinnati bullpen.
"The first two pitches were offspeed sliders, so that next pitch, I was looking for a fastball," Frazier said. "I got it out over the plate and I was hoping I could hit it hard, that was all I was trying to do."
Of Barmes' oh-so-close flyout, Frazier said he thought it would've been a home run had the game been in Cincinnati. Frazier's smash off Grilli, on the other hand, would have been a home run anywhere.
"You can't fall behind the first guy you face, especially in a tie ballgame," Grilli said. "Frazier's a guy who dives over the plate and I tried to move him off -- it didn't work tonight."
Reds starter Johnny Cueto had a less-than-dazzling performance by his standards. Thankfully for Cueto, the Reds' offense -- which was sparked by leadoff man Billy Hamilton -- spotted the starter five runs. Hamilton went 3-for-4 with two singles that didn't leave the infield and a leadoff double in the first that was a chopper down the third-base line. The rookie also stole three bases -- pushing his season total to 28 -- and scored twice.
Cueto needed to throw 119 pitches just to get through six innings. However, he was still able to limit the Pirates to two runs and left the game with a 5-2 lead. It was gone an inning later.
Righty Sam LeCure was charged with three runs in the seventh as the Bucs evened the game at 5. LeCure retired the first batter he faced, but then allowed three singles and walked one.
Josh Harrison's game-tying double came off Logan Ondrusek, but he came back to pitch a scoreless eighth. Chapman walked pinch-hitter Chris Stewart and Harrison singled off the Cuban lefty to add to the late-night tension, but Chapman got Barmes' ball to stay in the park.
Tuesday marked the first time in three starts this season that Cueto didn't pitch a complete game against the Pirates, and the right-hander allowed 11 baserunners (seven hits, four walks) in six innings -- a long way off from the Major League-best 0.78 WHIP he had entering the game.
Cueto said after the game that he was not exactly feeling like himself, something he noticed when he was throwing in the bullpen before the game.
"I thought I was not even going to be able to throw one inning today," Cueto said through a translator. "I didn't feel good at all, I battled every inning."
It was the third straight start in which Cueto was unable to reach the seventh inning, something he did in his first nine appearances in 2014. And the two strikeouts he registered were a season low.
"He wasn't sharp," manager Bryan Price said. "He was better the last two innings than he was the first four. He wasn't really totally locked in, he was spinning off a lot. There were some empty pitches there that didn't serve any purpose."
The Reds scored two runs in the fourth after falling behind, 2-1, when Cueto issued a bases-loaded walk in the third inning. Cincinnati scored three runs against starter Brandon Cumpton and immediately got after the Bucs' bullpen, as Joey Votto hit a two-run single against reliever Justin Wilson in the seventh to push the Reds' lead to 5-2.
All of the offense ended up being necessary, and the Reds are now 13-14 in one-run contests.
"It would've been nice if it was a little easier on the stomach," Price said. "But right now, as many as we lost in one-run games early in the season, I feel happy as heck we came out with a win."