Cutch singled off Dan Straily with an out to begin the game; Gregory and Starling whiffed behind him. Tough start for Jon Niese. Zack Cozart smacked his third pitch out of the park (it dropped softly into the first row of seats), and was followed by a knock and plunk. But Brandon Phillips came through with a big DP grounder, and a K left the Bucs behind by just a run. Pittsburgh went quietly in the second while the Reds left a runner at second.
Jordy opened the third with a walk. A bunt and bouncer got him to third, but Cutch grounded out sharply to short. Billy Hamilton had his second hit of the night with one gone, and was erased before he got into mischief when Joey Votto hit into an around-the-horn DP. A single and steal by Starling in the fourth didn't help the cause. Niese gave the Redlegs a walk, but likewise, it led to no damage. With an out in the fifth, Jordy drew another free pass on a coin flip 3-2 delivery to no avail. It was a 1-2-3 frame for Niese.
|Jon Niese found GABP a little too cozy tonight (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)|
The sixth started with a Cutch single, then Gregory drew a four-pitch walk and Starling loaded 'em up with a liner into left. Fran missed a grand salami by a step or two on a drive to center, but the sac fly tied it up, and JHK's bouncer gave the Bucs the lead at 2-1. The edge lasted two batters, before Joey Votto went yard to tie it, a ball that just made it inside the pole and into the LF stands, a lot like Gregory's yesterday.
JC Ramirez took the ball in the seventh and tossed a clean frame. Niese got the first two Reds, then served up another cheapo, first row homer to Tucker Barnhart that had to be reviewed before the ump's wave around. No excuses; maybe it's karma for Gregory and Jaso's homers yesterday. After a single, Clint called on Ryan Vogelsong to get the third out, which he did thx to a sweet grab by Josh.
Blake Wood took the ball in the eighth and Cutch fought him for a walk. Gregory flew out on a 3-0 pitch, popping up on ball four. That flipped the switch; Wood got a weak grounder and whiff after his reprieve. Hamilton led off with a knock, but Fran nailed him trying to swipe second with a on-the-money laser beam. The Reds challenged, mostly out of disbelief, but the call was upheld. V-Song then lost Votto and Phillips singled before Eugenio Suarez hit the hardest ball of the inning. Fortunately for the Pirates, it was a liner right at Jordy, who doubled Votto off at second.
Lefty Tony Cingrani come in to close (kinda odd choice with all righties due up), and JHK started the ninth with an opposite field double. S-Rod ran for him and was moved to third on a Josh grounder. Jordy banged out with the infield in; a nice reaction play by Phillips to pick the hard shot kept Rodriguez anchored. The Freeser grabbed a bat, but couldn't cash him in, lining out to center. So hey, another loss to the Reds.
|Starling had his fourth straight multi-hit game (photo Dave Arrigo/Pirates)|
Dan Straily challenged the Bucs with 89-90 MPH hard stuff up and breaking stuff down and won his dare. That's been the early 2016 story at GABP: Pittsburgh has scored four runs in their three losses here, gone 4-for-34 w/RISP and stranded 30 runners. If you can't hit in a hitter's park against a struggling staff like the Reds have, you don't deserve to win.
As for Niese, maybe it was bad luck, but his home run rate is over two per game now, and two of the dingers he served were on hanging spinners. It wasn't as if the Reds were short of chances, either, as three DP's and a CS held down their count. We'll see down the road if he's getting back in the mechanical groove or not. The clock is ticking on the young 'uns getting the call up, and that's the time frame he's working under.
- Starling Marte had a fourth straight multi-hit game and his league-leading 16th of the year.Cutch also added a pair of knocks. They were the only two Pirates with hits until JHK's ninth inning double.
- The last leadoff homer against the Bucs prior to tonight was on August 18th, 2014, when Atlanta's Jason Heyward drilled a long fly off Vance Worley.
- Tucker Barnhart ended a string of 270 homerless at-bats with his seventh inning game-winning dinger.
- The Pirates have been playing 2B Alen Hansen in LF the past couple of games. We don't think it foreshadows a position switch as much as a nod to versatility; Indy is jammed with middle IF'ers - Hansen, Max Moroff, Adam Frazier, Cole Figueroa, P-Flo, Gift Ngoepe - and it looks like the club is trying to sharpen Hansen's pasture skills and give Moroff time in the middle to add some value for a possible MLB bench spot somewhere down the line.
- Jon Heyman reported that Stephen Strasburg signed a $175M/seven year extension with the Nationals. He isn't sure if any of the money is deferred, and assumes that they is an opt-out clause.