Before the Pittsburgh Pirates’ three day layoff, they were struggling to put together consistent good at-bats. In an interview with Josh Bell, he said that he felt this series would be the one where the Pirates starting hitting. Well, if there was any way Bell would be right, it would be the fact that the Pirates were playing at Great American Ballpark in a four game series against the Cincinnati Reds.
Sure enough, Bell’s prediction seemed to be coming true from the jump, when Adam Frazier homered to center field on the second pitch he saw from Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani. Just two batters later, Colin Moran stepped up and hit a 430 foot bomb to center to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Trevor Williams, who in his last start pitched a gem, giving up just one run in 7 innings against the powerful Minnesota Twins, got the start for the Pirates today. After his offense got him the lead in the top of the inning, Williams came in and set the Reds down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning, needing just 9 pitches to do so.
Then came the top of the second inning. After taking the first pitch, Gregory Polanco took advantage of the short right field, hitting one just over the wall out there. As a little side note, StatCast had that one going out in 3 out of the 30 major league ballparks. Luckily, the Pirates were playing in one of those 30. Polanco’s home run also marked the first time in Pittsburgh Pirates franchise history that three of the first six batters hit a home run.
Erik Gonzalez continued his tear with a hard-hit double off of the wall in left. After a Jarrod Dyson fly out moved Gonzalez to third, Jacob Stallings hit one past the drawn-in infield to give the Pirates a 4-0 lead. Adam Frazier and Kevin Newman followed that up with back-to-back singles that loaded up the bases for Josh Bell. Bell hit a ground ball to the left side that beat the shift and scored two more, making the score now 6-0. The hits kept coming for the Pirates, when Colin Moran lined one to center for a single that scored another. Bryan Reynolds walked to load the bases again, and then Gregory Polanco did the same to bring in yet another run. The Pirates were able to plate one more on a Gonzalez groundout to give the Pirates nine runs in the first two innings.
The Reds wasted no time in the bottom of the inning, with Eugenio Suarez drawing a walk and Jesse Winker and Nick Senzel singling to bring in a run. Luckily, Trevor Williams was able to bounce back, getting a fly out and a double play to hold the Reds to just one. It was 9-1 Pirates through 2 innings.
Cody Reed came in for the Reds after Anthony Desclafani gave up 9 runs in two innings. He looked good, holding the Pirates scoreless in the third and fourth innings, giving the Reds a chance to come back. His team once again chipped away at the lead, when Nick Senzel homered to cut the Pirates’ lead to 9-3 in the bottom of the fourth. Besides another Erik Gonzalez double, Reed held the Pirates to just one hit in his 2.2 innings of work. Michael Lorenzen, who had struggled to this point in the season, pitched 3.1 innings for the Reds, who had come into the game with the second-worst bullpen ERA.
For the Pirates, they got a solid start from Trevor Williams, who went five innings while striking out four and giving up three runs. They also got a solid inning from Sam Howard, who besides giving up a home run to Freddy Galvis in the bottom of the seventh, looked untouchable. He struck out three in five batters faced. Geoff Hartlieb also pitched an inning, and he gave up an RBI double to bring the Pirates lead down to 4. The most impressive outing from a Pirates reliever came from none other than Richard Rodriguez, who entered the game with runners on second and third and one out. He battled with Josh VanMeter in an eight pitch at-bat that eventually ended in a huge strikeout. Rodriguez got Freddy Galvis to ground out to second to end the innings.
After Lucas Sims shut down the Pirates in the top of the inning, it was Keone Kela time in the bottom of the ninth inning. This was Kela’s first appearance since Spring Training 1.0. He did not get greeted nicely, as Tucker Barnhart tucked a 97 MPH fastball around the right foul pole, making the game 9-6 with nobody out. Phillip Ervin then hit a sharp ground ball that deflected off of Erik Gonzalez and into left. After a mound visit, Kela was able to next the next three batters to end the game. The Pirates, who didn’t score after the second inning, came away with a 9-6 win.
The Pirates will ditch the piggybacking strategy and give Chad Kuhl (3 games, 2.00 ERA) his own start tomorrow against a very good Reds pitcher Sonny Gray (3-1, 2.25 ERA). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 P.M.