Former Cincinnati Reds great Pete Rose watches from the stands in the eighth inning of the Reds-Pirates game.
Al Behrman/Associated Press
Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer, left, tags out the Reds' Shin-Soo Choo, who was trying to steal second base in the first inning.
Al Behrman/Associated Press
The Reds' Jay Bruce is congratulated by Todd Frazier after Bruce's solo home run off Pirates relief pitcher Bryan Morris in the eighth inning.
By Bill Brink Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Reds are built for their ballpark, and they proved that Monday night.
Four solo home runs, two against Francisco Liriano, sent the Pirates to a 4-1 loss at Great American Ball Park.
Liriano (5-3) allowed two runs on five hits in six innings. He retired the first two batters of the inning only to allow the next batter to reach base -- or homer -- in each of his final five innings.
"Nothing changed at all," Liriano said of his two-out pitches. "I tried to do the same thing I was doing before."
The Pirates fell 1 1/2 games behind the Reds in the NL Central and have lost three of their past four games against Cincinnati.
Before the game, manager Clint Hurdle acknowledged the difficulty of playing in the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park and noted that pitching would decide the series.
"We've had some success pitching to them here," Hurdle said. "If we make pitches, we'll be fine. If we don't make pitches, it could be a rough four days."
For the most part, Liriano made pitches.
"I feel like me and Russell [Martin] got a pretty good connection," Liriano said. "We were on the same page most of the time.
"He knows what to call behind the plate."
Zack Cozart broke the scoreless tie in the fourth. With two outs, he hit Liriano's 2-2 slider 437 feet into the second deck in left ,and the Reds led, 1-0. Liriano had not allowed a home run this season before Cozart's shot.
Martin tied it in the sixth. He lined a double to right-center, and Andrew McCutchen, who had reached base on a fielder's choice, scored from first.
The Reds regained the lead quickly in the sixth.
Liriano again retired the first two batters, then grooved a first-pitch fastball to Todd Frazier, who hit his ninth homer this season to give the Reds a 2-1 lead.
"I made two mistakes," Liriano said. "The hanging slider and the fastball right down the middle."
Joey Votto's solo homer in the eighth added a run. He hit Bryan Morris' 3-2 slider just over the wall in left. Two batters later, Jay Bruce also homered against Morris.
"The balls that were left out over the plate, they put the barrel on and rode out of the ballpark," Hurdle said.
The Pirates went 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position against Mike Leake, who threw nearly 70 percent of his pitches for strikes, and the Reds' bullpen.
"We've been doing a pretty good job thus far," said Andrew McCutchen, who went 2 for 3. "One game is not a big deal for us. You're going to lose, you're going to win, but you have to show up tomorrow and be ready to play."
Leake (7-3) allowed one run on six hits in seven innings.
"He's been doing this for three months," Hurdle said. "He's a good pitcher.
"He keeps the ball out of the middle of the plate, he changes speeds extremely well. He's pitching as well as I've ever seen him."
Jordy Mercer led off the third with a double, but advanced no farther.
Liriano's bunt, to the left of the mound, did not send Mercer to third. Starling Marte struck out and Alex Presley grounded out.
Votto reached first with two outs in the third on a hard-hit groundball that Neil Walker mishandled. Before Liriano came set, he flinched ever so slightly and was called for a balk, putting Votto on second.
Brandon Phillips lined a ball to left field, but Marte made a stellar diving catch running to his right to save a run and end the inning.
"Not too many left fielders are going to make that play," McCutchen said. "Some people forget that Marte is a natural center fielder, too."
Leake hit McCutchen in the back with an 0-2 cutter to lead off the fourth. In the ninth, Aroldis Chapman, who earned his 18th save, brushed Neil Walker off the plate with a 100 mph fastball up and in.
Cincinnati's Derrick Robinson runs past as Neil Walker throws to first to force out Joey Votto and end the fifth inning.