In a game that went back and forth on Tuesday at PNC Park, Todd Frazier finally dealt the decisive blow in the ninth inning against Jason Grilli when he homered to give the Reds a 6-5 victory and control of third place in the NL Central.
Billy Hamilton set the tone against Brandon Cumpton in the first inning when he doubled and then stole third. That set up and RBI single by Joey Votto to give the Reds (34-35) a quick 1-0 lead. Johnny Cueto sat down the first four hitters he faced, but a one-out walk to Russell Martin proved costly as former UC Bearcat and Princeton H.S. grad, Josh Harrison, doubled in Martin to tie the game in the second. Hamilton and Harrison would be the catalyst for their teams as they combined to go 7-9 with two RBI, two runs scored, and four stolen bases.
The Pirates (34-36) took advantage of an out of control Cueto, as he walked the bases loaded in the third and then walked Martin to push across a run. Pedro Alvarez sent a fly ball to center and Andrew McCutchen attempted to tag and score, but Hamitlon's throw allowed Brayan Pena to tag McCutchen out at home and end the inning.
Cincinnati answered right back in the fourth when Brandon Phillips singled, then Jay Bruce doubled to set up an RBI single by Ryan Ludwick. Bruce came home to score on a ground out by Pena and eventually the Reds would load the bases. Cumpton limited the damage by getting Frazier to fly out and end the inning.
The Pirates would get a runner to second in the next three innings, but failure to hit in the clutch paired with bad base running still gave the Reds the advantage. Cincinnati would add some insurance in the seventh against reliever Justin Wilson. Hamilton started with a perfect bunt to second despite two strikes in the count, then stole second. Frazier followed with a single to move Hamilton to third and then stole second as well. That allowed Votto to pad his RBI with a two-run single to make it 5-2. Jeanmar Gomez came on in relief of Wilson and was able to keep the Reds off the board and set up the Pirates comeback.
Sam LeCure came on in relief of Cueto in the bottom half of the inning and struggled after getting Gregory Polanco to line out. Starling Marte singled then moved to second on a walk to McCutchen and to third on a wild pitch. That set up a soft line drive single by Ike Davis to cut the lead to 5-3. Martin followed with an RBI single of his own and that was it for LeCure.
Manny Parra came on and struck out pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez. That would be it for Parra as Logan Ondrusek (2-2) came on to try and get the final out. Harrison instead drove in the tying run on an RBI single. Ondrusek finally got the last out when Mercer lined out to right. Pittsburgh had another shot at Ondrusek in the eighth as they had runners at first and second with one out, but he rallied back to strike out McCutchen and Davis to end the threat.
Frazier opened the ninth with a towering home run that easily cleared the center field wall off Grilli (0-2), who came on in the ninth in relief of Mark Melancon. Aroldis Chapman came on in the bottom half and struck out Martin, but allowed a walk to Chris Stewart and a single by Harrison. Mercer would also strike out, but Clint Barmes hit a long fly ball that sent Chris Heisey racing back towards the short wall in left. Heisey was turned around briefly, but was able to make the running catch on the warning track to earn Chapman his 12th save of the year.
Alfredo Simon (9-3, 2.95 ERA) will try to be the first NL pitcher to ten wins on Wednesday when he squares off against Edinson Volquez (4-5, 3.89 ERA).