Mercer led off the third with a double, but nothing resulted from it. Votto reached with two outs on a Neil Walker muff, but he was left aboard, too, on a diving catch by Starling Marte to take away an extra base bid by Brandon Phillips.
The game heated up a bit in the fourth. Cutch was hit by a pitch - happens a lot in Cincy, it seems - but was erased on a Garrett Jones 6-3 DP hit into a shift. Martin and Alvarez banged back to back knocks, but the Bucs left them stranded. With two down down in the Red half, Zack Cozart was all over a Liriano slider and drove it deep into the night to make it 1-0 Reds. The fifth went quietly; the only noise was a two out bunt single by Derrick Robinson. The Reds have gotten someone aboard with two outs every inning so far.
Alex Presley opened the sixth with a knock, followed by a Cutch force out. Jones hit the ball well the opposite way, but his liner was hauled in by Robinson - with his bare hand, ouch! But Russell Martin came through, slamming an elevated change into right center for a run producing double to knot the score. Frankie couldn't shake that two out voodoo. After striking out Phillips and Bruce Jay, he laid a first pitch meatball down the middle to Todd Frazier, who lost the ball in the left field stands to make it 2-1. Both homers were bombs, going 435'+.
Walker started the seventh with a walk, and Mercer bunted him to second; guess that's it for Liriano. And it was. The Cisco Kid went six innings, giving up two runs on five hits and two walks with six K after 84 tosses. Travis Snider grabbed a stick for him, and struck out. Marte caught a curve pretty well, but it ended up a loud out in Choo's glove. The ol' skipper may have out-thought himself in this frame, but no amount of brainstorming can overcome an 0-7 performance with RISP. Bryan Morris came on, and with an out, Donald Lutz banged a single through the right side. Choo bounced the next pitch to second, and the 4-6-3 DP closed the frame
Sam LeCure took the bump for the Reds in the eighth. Cutch singled up the middle with an out, and that brought on LHP Tony Cingrani, a big time prospect who worked as a starter on the farm, to face Jones, who was flipped for Gaby. He got ahead 3-0, fouled off a pair of fastballs down the middle, belt high, and looked at strike three in a very disappointing AB. Martin fought after digging himself an 0-2 hole and drew a walk. But Cingrani matched lefty-on-lefty with Pedro, and struck him out on three pitches without throwing a ball over the plate.
The long ball came into play again for the Reds. With an out, Votto took a 3-2 slider from Morris the opposite way to make it 3-1 when the ball dropped a half dozen rows into the left field stands. Then with two outs, he hung another slider to Bruce, and he pounded it yard to left center, and it was a legit blast. Aroldis Chapman was ready. He whiffed Walker after knocking him down with 100 MPH heat, then lost Mercer. The Fort stepped to the plate, and laced a liner to center that Choo snagged on the track. Marte went down chasing high heat, and the Reds had the opener in the bag.
No point in saying this is a hitter's park; the yard doesn't know who's batting. The Reds are ready to hit and pound mistake pitches; the Pirates...well, they're batting .223 with RISP, next to last in MLB. And no point in second guessing Hurdle; he's tossing pixie dust until the Bucs come up with some kind of approach at the plate. Their lack of clutch hitting makes every game an adventure and is the reason the bullpen gets used like it's bottomless. With Mercer getting his look at short, the Bucs now could sure use a right-handed RF with some punch and a 3B to platoon with Pedro to flesh out the lineup.
But hey, they're doing OK with what they've got, and most of the hitters are due for regression upward. We'll see what happens tomorrow when Charlie Morton takes on Mat Latos.
- Another lesson in regression; Liriano hadn't surrendered a homer in 45 IP until tonight.
- Travis Sawchik of the Tribune Review reported that "Hurdle said he had spoken to both (Clint) Barmes and (Jordy) Mercer and explained Mercer is now the guy."
- The Pirates announced that they've signed Jose Contreras to a minor league deal after he cleared waivers and assigned him to Indy.
- Stolmy Pimentel made his Indy debut and went six innings, giving up an unearned run on five hits and two walks with seven K while throwing 95 pitches.
- Sawchik also tweeted that "first-round pick Reese McGuire is on a plane to Pittsburgh and will take physical & sign tomorrow, according to McGuire's HS coach." None of the HS draftees can sign a deal until they graduate, and McGuire just got his diploma. He expects him to sign near the slot value of $2.56M.