The Pirates took advantage of Reds’ starter Johnny Cueto leaving the game early due to injury and have now won four of their past five.
Jeff Locke got the start for the Pirates and the first time through the order struggled to throw strikes. The Reds struck first in the third inning when Zack Cozart took a 2-2 pitch over the left field fence for his third homerun of the season, making the score 1-0 in favor of the Reds.
While Locke labored early, Cueto found success. However, after a fourth-inning walk to Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones hit a run-scoring double and tied the score at 1-1 after four innings.
Locke allowed consecutive one-out singles in the top of the fifth to put runners on the corners. Joey Votto then hit a sharp line drive that Pedro Alvarez caught at the top of his jump. After a walk to Todd Frazier, Locke got Jay Bruce to lineout to Clint Barmes to once again end the threat.
Cueto took the mound in the fifth and struck out Pedro Alvarez to open the inning, but after the first pitch to Travis Snider, he seemed to be bothered by right triceps pain, the same issue that knocked him out of a playoff start against the San Francisco Giants last fall. He was removed from the game and replaced by Alfredo Simon.
Snider and Clint Barmes each singled, and Josh Harrison had a pinch hit fly out that moved Snider to third base. Red-hot Starling Marte then lined a 1-2 pitch to centerfield to score Snider and give the Pirates the lead.
Jeff Locke was replaced by Justin Wilson after that half inning, throwing just 87 pitches on the evening.
“He competed. He had to all night,” said manager Clint Hurdle. “We pitched out of the stretch all evening. He was able to make pitches where a couple of balls were hit at people and that was just the way it worked. At the time when you leave five innings and you leave seven on base, I felt enough was enough. He held them to one run and they had to hit it out of the ballpark to score off of him. We didn’t let people score and that’s never not good.”
Wilson was aided by Russell Martin throwing out Ryan Hanigan trying to steal, and after two singles, Shin-Soo Choo hit a ground ball to Garrett Jones, who barely beat Choo to first base, keeping the Pirates in the lead.
Wilson got into a jam again in the seventh inning, but got Todd Frazier to strike out and Jay Bruce to fly to the warning track. With runners on the corners and two outs, releiver Jared Hughes took the mound and retired Xavier Paul on two pitches to end the threat.
Simon walked Alvarez in the seventh inning and after retiring Snider was replaced by J.J. Hoover. Hoover retired a batter but then pinch hitter Jose Tabata came off the bench and connected for a double to plate Snider and extend the lead.
“It’s one of the hardest things to do in baseball, and the ball was absolutely blistered,” Hurdle said. “We haven’t had a lot of results from our pinch hitters. Any time you can add a run late against that lineup, it benefits your bullpen and everyone involved.”
Mark Melancon shut down the Reds in the eighth inning and Jason Grilli closed the door in the ninth inning for his fifth save of the season.
Notebook: Phil Irwin to Start Sunday
Phil Irwin will make his Major League debut on Sunday, replacing Wandy Rodriguez, who is still bothered by a tight hamstring. Irwin was with the club on Saturday, however he was able to work out with the team before the game however was not allowed to dress as it would have required a roster move. Rodriguez told reporters prior to the game that his injury is “getting better” while Hurdle called the injury “day to day.” Both project Rodriguez to make his next outing.
Irwin is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA after one outing with Triple-A Indianapolis.
Turning Back the Clock
Sunday marks the first time this season that the team will wear their updated jersey worn by the 1971 World Series Champions. The nostalgia excites Hurdle.
“I like them,” Hurdle said. “It’s a throwback to a feel good time. I’m looking forward to wearing it and representing it.”
Jeff Karstens is throwing on flat ground. Charlie Morton threw two innings in a game today and Hurdle said his sinker was firm and his velocity reached 92-96 miles per hour. Francisco Liriano will pitch again on Monday for the single-A Bradenton Marauders. Liriano pitched two innings and threw 31 pitches on Wednesday. His pitch count will be three innings or 50 pitches.
The series will conclude tomorrow afternoon when Phil Irwin makes his season debut against Mat Latos (0-0 2.84). The game is scheduled to start at 1:35.