Having weathered six innings of Johnny Cueto, the Pirates tied the score in the late innings Tuesday night against the Cincinnati Reds, but, for the fourth consecutive game, the bullpen faltered.
Todd Frazier’s go-ahead homer against Jason Grilli in the ninth sent the Pirates to a 6-5 loss against the Reds at PNC Park Tuesday night.
Grilli entered in the ninth with the score tied, 5-5. He fell behind 2-0 in the count against Frazier, the first batter he faced.
“The next pitch I was looking for a fastball,” Frazier said “Got it out over the plate. I was hoping I can hit it hard. That’s basically all I tried to do, hit the ball hard.”
Grilli threw the fastball, and Frazier hit it off the batter’s eye in dead center for his 16th home run this season.
“You can’t fall behind the first guy you face, especially in a tie ballgame,” Grilli said. “Frazier’s a guy that dives over the plate. Just didn’t work tonight.”
Grilli took the loss and fell to 0-2. Logan Ondrusek (2-2) earned the win and Aroldis Chapman saved his 12th game.
Though the bullpen’s struggles only cost them one win against Miami Marlins over the weekend, the unit’s effectiveness has lapsed recently.
Before Tuesday night, the bullpen’s 4.82 June ERA ranked 12th in the National League. After allowing three runs in three innings Tuesday, the unit has allowed 14 runs in its past 142⁄3 innings.
“We just got to keep finding ways together as a club to be a little more efficient all over the place and get some of these one-run games coming back our way,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
Trailing, 5-2, after the Reds scored two runs off Justin Wilson in the seventh, the Pirates cracked reliever Sam LeCure. Starling Marte singled, extending his hitting streak to eight games. Andrew McCutchen walked and Marte took third on a wild pitch. Ike Davis, who entered the game 4 for 38 in June, singled to score Marte.
Russell Martin, who walked in his first three plate appearances and drove a run home with one of them, also singled, scoring McCutchen. The Reds brought in left-hander Manny Parra to face Pedro Alvarez, but Hurdle replaced him with Gaby Sanchez, who struck out.
Another pitching change meant Josh Harrison, who already had delivered an RBI double, faced Ondrusek.
Harrison singled to tie the score.
“You get in the bullpen, you know, things happen,” said Harrison, who went 4 for 5 with two RBIs. “A couple guys got on, Ike got a big hit. Things started rolling. Just one of those things, try to have good at-bats one after another.”
Clint Barmes drove a ball to the wall in left off Chapman with two on in the ninth, but Chris Heisey brought it down to end the game.
“Just watching the way [Heisey] went back on it, I had a pretty good feeling the ball was going to stay in the ballpark,” Reds manager Bryan Price said.
“I’m glad it did.”
Cueto, who allowed two runs and four walks in six innings, entered the game ranked second in the NL in innings pitched, strikeouts and ERA. His .160 batting average against led the major leagues. He had three complete games before Tuesday night, and two of them were shutouts.
Brandon Cumpton allowed some hard contact but surrendered only three runs in six innings.
“I feel like at times I got in and at other times I left stuff over the plate, and they hit them pretty hard, some right at guys and some found gaps,” Cumpton said.
Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton was on base four times, twice on bunt singles. He scored twice and stole three bases. The Reds’ Joey Votto drove in three runs.
Sean Hammond contributed. Bill Brink: email@example.com and Twitter @BrinkPG.
First Published June 17, 2014 11:07 PM