Home plate umpire Bob Davidson signals the Reds' Chris Heisey safe at home with an inside-the-park home run, ruling he beat the tag of Pirates catcher Rod Barajas in the second inning Friday in Cincinnati.
By Bill Brink Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CINCINNATI -- For most of the game Friday night against the Cincinnati Reds, Mat Latos stole the show.
The Reds starter rolled through the Pirates lineup with hardly a bump in the road, then widened the lead with his bat.
Latos and the Reds won their 14th game in their past 15 tries, defeating the Pirates, 3-0, in front of a sellout crowd at Great American Ball Park.
The Reds did not have Joey Votto, Jay Bruce or Brandon Phillips in their starting lineup, but as hot as the Reds are, they didn't miss them.
They extended their lead to 41/2 games over the Pirates in the National League Central and have won 21 of their past 24 games.
"We've seen him pretty good twice," manager Clint Hurdle said of Latos. "I don't know where that four-plus ERA came from before the game. It didn't come against us."
Latos (10-3) pitched 71/3 innings of scoreless ball, allowing four hits and walking three. He kept the Pirates hitting the ball on the ground, retiring 11 batters via ground balls compared to one on a fly ball. He did not allow a hit until the fourth, when Andrew McCutchen singled.
Latos helped his cause in the bottom of the fifth. Ryan Hanigan singled with two outs before Latos hit the first pitch from Wandy Rodriguez into the left-field seats, giving the Reds a 3-0 lead.
Latos turned the game over to the newly acquired Jonathan Broxton, who induced a double play to end the eighth, and Aroldis Chapman earned the save.
With two outs in the ninth, Chapman hit McCutchen on the left arm with a 101 mph fastball, the first pitch of the at-bat. McCutchen declined to comment.
"You don't like to see anybody get hit," Hurdle said. "The guy throws pretty hard. That's about it."
Rodriguez (7-10) pitched seven innings and allowed three runs on seven hits. He pitched well despite the outcome, retiring the final seven batters he faced and striking out Ryan Ludwick with men on first and third to end the fifth.
"I felt more comfortable today," Rodriguez said. "I tried to put the ball wherever I wanted."
Rodriguez did not walk a batter after walking eight batters in his previous 12 innings.
The Reds offense scored its runs via the home run, but not in the fashion so often seen at Great American Ball Park. Chris Heisey capitalized on a long bounce for an inside-the-park home run, and Latos hit his first of the season and third of his career. Both home runs came against Rodriguez.
"There might be two pitches that he wants back," Hurdle said. "The one hanging breaking ball that he dropped down and threw to Heisey.
"He throws a fastball to the pitcher, he hits it in the bleachers. You throw those to a lot of pitchers, that's not where they end up."
Heisey gave the Reds the lead in the second. He hit a high fly to left that bounced off the wall above Starling Marte's glove. The ball careened into left-center field, at which point McCutchen broke toward the ricochet.
Neil Walker's throw came close to nabbing Heisey at the plate, but Heisey was called safe for an inside-the-park home run.
Heisey's only other inside-the-park home run came Aug. 2, 2010, against the Pirates' Joel Hanrahan.
"We had guys come up [in the clubhouse] and look at it 20 times," Hurdle said. "I just thought with a high tag, he might have got in. I had a pretty good look at it. If I thought he had been out, I'd have been out there. Rod [Barajas] did a great job, it was a good throw."
The Pirates had an opportunity in the fifth but came away without a run. Walker worked an 11-pitch leadoff walk, and Pedro Alvarez grounded into a fielder's choice.
Alvarez took second on a wild pitch and Barajas walked to put men on first and second with one out, but Clint Barmes grounded into a double play on the first pitch to end the inning. The Pirates grounded into three double plays in the game.
"They just happened to get the plays when they needed them," McCutchen said.
"They happened to get the double play when they needed it. It seemed like that happened throughout the course of the whole game. Everything was going their way today as far as defense goes."