Reds 5, Pirates 4: Players on edge, tension mounts

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CINCINNATI -- For the second consecutive night, the sellout crowd at Great American Ball Park got a show.

This time, they saw home runs, triples and an ejection in a series where frustration continues to mount.

Todd Frazier's ground ball scored Scott Rolen in the eighth inning and gave the Cincinnati Reds a 5-4 win against the Pirates Saturday night.

The Pirates now trail the Reds, who have won five games in a row, by 51/2 games in the NL Central. The Reds have won 22 of their past 25 games.

Rolen tripled to center off Jared Hughes in the eighth. On Frazier's high chopper, Rolen took off for home. Hughes fielded the chopper and threw to first, allowing Rolen to score, and the Reds took a 5-4 lead.

"The moment I looked home, I realized the ball, I didn't have a good grip on it yet," Hughes said.

The next batter, Dioner Navarro, grounded softly down the first-base line and Hughes shoved him as he applied the tag, the latest evidence of frustration after two hit Pirates batters in the first two games of the series.

"It's expected when you've got two teams battling for a top spot and also a close race," Josh Harrison said. "The beauty of this game is we can come back and win one tomorrow."

In the second, Reds starter Mike Leake hit Harrison on the left thigh. Harrison flipped his bat toward the Pirates' dugout with purpose and appeared to exchange words with Leake as he jogged to first.

The incident occurred one night after Aroldis Chapman hit Andrew McCutchen with two outs in the ninth inning, so home plate umpire Brian Gorman, the crew chief for the series, warned both dugouts. Hurdle came out to argue and was subsequently ejected.

"I felt like we were getting a little bit of a short end of the stick there," Hurdle said. "The wind's blowing out, you got to pitch in, for a warning at that point in time -- we just disagreed."

Harrison declined to comment on the exchange with Leake, but said he didn't know whether he was hit intentionally or not.

James McDonald allowed runs early, but improved after the third. He allowed no hits and one walk in his final three innings and struck out four. He pitched six innings and allowed four runs, three earned, on seven hits, walking one and striking out seven.

"I thought he was very resilient," Hurdle said. "We dug him a little hole in the first, and he almost wiggled out of it."

McDonald's improvement over the final three innings was a good sign for the Pirates. McDonald, who battled A.J. Burnett for the title of best pitcher in the Pirates' rotation in the first half of the season, had struggled in his four starts since the All-Star break.

Leake gave up four runs, two of them on solo homers, in six innings. He also walked one and struck out seven. Jonathan Broxton got the win in relief, and Chapman earned his 25th save.

McDonald again allowed runs to score in the first. Zack Cozart hit a hard single to center field to lead off before Drew Stubbs bunted down the third-base line. Pedro Alvarez barehanded the ball, but his throw went wide of Garrett Jones at first, and the Reds had runners on second and third with no outs.

Rolen singled to right, scoring two runs. McDonald has now allowed nine combined runs in the first inning in his past five starts.

Michael McKenry, whose recent offensive production prompted Hurdle to move him up in the order Saturday night, led off the second with his 11th home run, a high fly ball into the left-field seats.

In the third, Alex Presley tripled and Neil Walker lined out to right, allowing Presley to score and tying the game at 2-2.

Ryan Ludwick's double in the third scored a run. Two batters later, Frazier hit an infield single, allowing Jay Bruce to score and giving the Reds a 4-2 lead.

In the fourth. Harrison retaliated from being hit by a pitch, driving his third homer this season into the seats in left, cutting the Reds' lead to 4-3.

Travis Snider's sacrifice fly in the sixth scored Jones and tied the score at 4-4.

The Pirates face Homer Bailey today in their quest to avoid the sweep, but send A.J. Burnett to the mound. The Pirates have won 15 of Burnett's past 16 starts.

"A.J.'s gotten to watch these guys go to work at the plate for two days," Hurdle said. "He's looking forward to getting the ball. He's he's been real good for us to stop any kind of slide that we've had."


Bill Brink: and on Twitter @BrinkPG.


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