It looked as though Monday's contest was headed into extra innings, when Neil Walker hit a soft flare that evaded Brandon Phillips and then Jay Bruce's throw home skipped over the head of Devin Mesoraco to allow the winning run to score for Pittsburgh in the bottom of the ninth at PNC Park.
The Reds (8-11) looked to have the Pirates (9-11) number once again, but one swing of the bat drastically changed the game for the Buccos and Andrew McCutchen continued to pester Reds pitching this season. Pittsburgh had just come off a weekend in which they had two straight bullpen implosions in the ninth against Milwaukee and gave away the lead in the eighth on Monday and nearly again in the ninth.
Cincinnati started the game the same way it did in the final meeting with the Pirates last week. Billy Hamilton reached despite not getting a hit (hit by pitch) then advanced to third on a ground ball by Joey Votto and was able to jar the ball loose from Russell Martin at home to score the first run despite the Reds not collecting at hit in the inning. The Reds added another in the third on back-to-back doubles by Phillips and Todd Frazier.
Then came a familiar scene for Reds fans in the fourth. After a single by McCutchen and a double for Pedro Alvarez, Walker was hit by Mike Leake to load the bases for Ike Davis. Davis entered the game with only one home run and five RBI. Four of those runs came on a walk-off grand slam he hit off J.J. Hoover back on April 5, when Davis was with the New York Mets. This time against Leake, Davis turned the trick in a Pirates uniform to give Pittsburgh the quick 4-2 lead. It is the first time that a player has hit a grand slam with two different teams in the month of April, and Davis joined Ray Boone and Mike Piazza as the only players to hit a grand slam for two different teams against the same opponent in a single season.
Down but not out, the Reds started their rally against Francisco Liriano in the seventh when Hamilton scored Mesoraco, who had reached on an error, on a sac fly to center. Cincinnati tied the game when Liriano was replaced by Justin Wilson who gave up and RBI double to Bruce and then another on a single by Mesoraco. Bryan Price challenged that Bruce also scored on the play, but replay confirmed that Starling Marte's throw and Martin's tag beat Bruce before he touched home.
That proved costly for Cincinnati as McCutchen led off the eighth inning with a home run served up by Manny Parra. He settled in to retire two of the next three hitters, but was pulled in favor of Hoover (1-2). Hoover allowed a pinch hit single by Travis Snider, who was sporting a black eye from Sunday's fracas with the Brewers, and then walked the bases loaded for Jordy Mercer. Hoover was able to rebound and struck out Mercer to end the threat.
Jared Hughes (1-0) came on for the Pirates after just being called up for the injured Wandy Rodriguez, who was slated to start against the Reds on Thursday. Hughes was able to retire Hamilton and Votto, but Phillips and Frazier struck for back-to-back singles to put the go-ahead run in scoring position for Bruce. The left-handed slugger sent a rocket to center field, but it was not hard enough to elude McCutchen for the final out.
Hoover retired Marte on line drive to Chris Heisey, but walked Martin and McCutchen for Alvarez. On a 3-2 count, Hoover got Alvarez to hit into an infield fly to set up Walker to be the hero. Walker fell down in the count 0-2, but hit a ball that tailed away from a leaping Phillips. The slow-footed Martin charged home and Bruce corralled the hit and fired toward the plate, but right before it reached Mesoraco, the ball bounced way over the head of the waiting catcher to send the Reds home losers for only the second time in their last six games.
Tuesday's game features each teams best pitchers in the young season. Former Red Edinson Volquez (1-0, 1.71 ERA) leads the Pirates against Johnny Cueto (1-2, 1.50 ERA). Cueto earned his first win of the year in his last outing when he threw a complete game shutout against the Pirates that included 12 strikeouts.