The first wasn't as kind to J-Mick. Zack Cozart has been on a tear and led off with a knock to center. Drew Stubbs laid down a bunt; Pedro barehanded it, but his toss to first was wide and Jones, never a study in grace, couldn't get off the bag quickly enough to snare it, putting runners on second and third. McDonald then fanned Ryan Ludwick and Jay Bruce fishing, and was an out away from escaping. But the first pitch, a decent heater in and at the knees to Scott Rolen, was lined into right on a good piece of hitting and it was 2-0.
The second was a little more interesting. The Fort bombed a homer, number 11, that just wouldn't quit carrying to cut the lead in half. (The wind is right to left, holding up balls to RF and adding some legs to hits to LF). Then Leake schooled the young lefties Pedro and Travis, leaving them soft stuff away that they both rolled to second. Josh Harrison was smacked in the thigh with a heater, glared a little and watched Leake come off the hill, jawing, as he trotted to first.
The plate umpire Brian Gorman, after last night's finish, warned both benches after that bit of posing. It could have been an unintentional plunk, but hey - it sure took the onus off the Reds with the early warning. Maybe Dusty Baker is as dumb as a fox. That of course set off Clint Hurdle, who couldn't quite figure out why his team was getting hit by pitches yet warned not to go tight in return. Gorman bounced him, which kicked Clint into overdrive. But he eventually left and J-Mick K'ed, so the game went on. McDonald wasn't fazed by the ado, and quietly retired the bottom of the order.
Presley, who looked lost during his first trip to the box, adjusted in the third; he drilled a shot off the yellow line atop the right field fence for a triple, and came in quickly when Walker lined a sinking liner to right that Jay Bruce made a tumbling grab of. Cutch flew out to right, then Jones took a two strike pitch up the middle. McKenry flew out to right to end the frame, but it was a tie game.
Not for long; the baseball gods smiled on the Reds. With an out, Stubbs dribbled a ball between the mound and first base line, and some miscommunication between J-Mick and McKenry let the swinging bunt turn into a single. Bruce broke his bat chasing one on the black, but got enough to drop it softly into left. With two strikes, McDonald hung a curve to Ludwick, who lined it off the left field wall for a double and the lead. A pop up got the second out. On a 3-2 pitch, Todd Frazier swung at a curve, losing his bat but getting a piece of the ball. He rolled over on the next pitch and sent it to the SS hole; a nice diving stop by Harrison saved one run, but the fourth scored as his strong throw was a half step late. So after three, it's 4-2 Reds, and J-Mick is at 60 pitches.
The Bucs tacked on another when Harrison went long to left to make it 4-3 in the fourth, prompting his mom to flash the Zoltan. It was backwards, but hey, it's the thought that counts. With two away, McDonald lost Cozart on four pitches and fell behind Stubbs 2-0, but rallied to catch him looking three tosses later.
Presley led off the fifth with a knock through the right side, but the hit was followed by a couple of awful at bats. Walker was hacking, and tapped a two strike slider off the plate to second for an easy DP. Cutch watched a pair of strikes sail by, then whiffed on a pitch up and away. J-Mick was strong, punching out Bruce and Rolen in a 1-2-3 frame.
The gods grinned at the Bucs a little in the sixth. Jones hit a ball sharply inside first, and it took a bad-hop skip off Frazier as GI legged it into a double. With an out, Pedro swung and missed at a curve in the dirt for strike three, but it bounced off the catcher Dioner Navarro to put Bucs on the corners. Snider fished for a pair of low hooks to fall behind 0-2, took a couple of chase pitches, then delivered a fly to center to knot the score. McDonald had another clean inning, highlighted by a nice barehanded grab and toss by Harrison on a swinging bunt.
Sean Marshall took the bump for the Reds and had an easy time of it in the seventh. J-Mick was gone, too. He went six, giving up four runs (three earned) on seven hits and a walk with seven K after 98 pitches. Tough to evaluate his performance; he got in a groove after a rough start without much in the way of luck, but also got away with a few offspeed pitches over the plate. Jared Hughes took the ball for Pittsburgh.
Miguel Cairo fought off a tight heater to bloop a leadoff single to right. Cozart tried to bunt twice and ended up popping out. No diff; Cairo stole second, his second swiped bag of the season. But Hughes induced a pair of bouncers to Pedro, and it's on to the eighth tied at 4.
Jonathon Broxton toed the rubber in the eighth. He got Cutch on a fly to medium left, getting away with a hung offspeed pitch that McCutch got under. Jones rolled over on a heater away and bounced to second. The Fort lined a two strike slider down and away to right to keep the Bucs alive. Pedro had a nice, disciplined at bat and smacked a full count pitch past first. Cairo, shifted toward the hole, made a nice diving stop to frustrate Alvarez.
Hughes stayed on, though Jason Grilli was loose, and tried to pound Rolen inside. He went to the well once too often, and the vet banged a triple off the yellow stripe on the center field wall on pretty much the same pitch he lined to right in the first inning to drive in a pair. The Bucs had a play at third, but Snider's relay was off line, costing Walker a chance to challenge Rolen. Frazier hit a Baltimore chop off the plate; Hughes may have had a bang-bang play at the plate, but took the sure out; we wouldn't have. (Hughes told the Tribune Review's Karen Price in the post-gamer that he didn't have a good grip on ball for throw home. "There was no way I could have made the throw and I just took the out.") Two grounders later, it was Aroldis Chapman's time with a 5-4 lead.
Snider was jammed and popped out to short right. Harrison battled and rolled a two-strike single through the SS hole to keep the pulse beating. Chapman carved up Starling Marte, getting him on a heater that went for a wild pitch, advancing Harrison to second. Gaby Sanchez pinch hit, and fought the good fight before going down on a 3-2, 100 MPH gasser between the belt and the letters.
Hey, the Reds won this game. They played a cleanly in the field, making all the textbook plays they should, and the Pirates misfired on a handful, and that's often the razor's edge in these kind of series. And Dusty Baker doesn't analyze when a game is on the line but goes for his best arms. Pittsburgh seems like they're always trying to save guys for situations down the road that don't always happen; Grilli and Hanny haven't pitched in the series yet. And without Brad Lincoln, they're in a little quandry late in the game now with back-end pitchers. Right now, you have to be on top of your game to play the Reds; they're on a 21-3 roll, and that only happens if you're playing well and getting the breaks.
AJ Burnett goes against Homer Bailey. Burnett has to be the stopper again; Bailey is a Buc killer and if Pittsburgh falls 6-1/2 back, it's not quite but nearing time to worry about holding off the Cards and Braves rather than chasing the Reds.
- Cincinnati is 16-3 since Joey Votto went down.
- Dusty Baker has a rep for burning out arms, but the Reds have made it to August with their rotation intact. No one but the original five have started a game yet.
- Brandon Phillips was scratched as a managers decision fifteen minutes before the game. Maybe he thought the Bucs might try to work the second baseman high and tight tonight.
- Clint Hurdle announced today that the rotation against Arizona beginning Monday would be Erik Bedard, Jeff Karstens, Kevin Correia and Wandy Rodriguez. So KC is getting the spot start, and will be available from the pen tonight and tomorrow.
- Nate McLouth is back in the show. He was called up by Baltimore after hitting .244 at AAA Norfolk, and had a pair of hits tonight.