The Reds' Billy Hamilton is safe at home as Pirates catcher Russell Martin waits for the ball in the first inning. Hamilton scored on a hit by Zack Cozart.
By Jenn Menendez / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CINCINNATI — Tony Watson has more than earned his place in tight, late-inning situations this season for the Pirates, but Friday night was not one of those outings.
The rival Cincinnati Reds scored three eighth-inning runs off the Pirates All-Star reliever to cap a 6-5 comeback win under a full moon at Great American Ball Park.
Watson gave up a home run to Devin Mesoraco and four consecutive singles that erased a 5-3 Pirates lead and allowed the Reds to seize another game on the Pirates in the tight National League Central Division.
“It’s the last guy down there you think something like that’s going to happen to,” said starter Jeff Locke, who provided a seventh consecutive quality start. “I’m sure he’d like to do everything over again. He’s still the guy we’re most likely always going to give the ball to right there. He’s been trusted all season. You really feel for him.”
The Pirates were up, 5-1, in the seventh, when the lead first began to erode.
Ryan Ludwick reached to open the inning when Pedro Alvarez fielded a routine grounder and threw the ball several rows deep into the first-base stands.
Ramon Santiago doubled in Ludwick and then came around to score on a groundout to make it 5-3. Both runs were unearned.
Watson, who had allowed just one hit in six consecutive scoreless appearances heading into Friday, gave up a solo home run to Mesoraco with two outs in the eighth before giving up four singles in a row to Ludwick, Chris Heisey, Ramon Santiago and pinch-hitter Brayan Pena.
“All two-strike hits, you know he got some balls in some areas he probably didn’t want to,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He has been lights-out for us all year and [Friday night] he wasn’t able to get that last out in the eighth inning.”
The four singles scored two more runs and paved the way for Aroldis Chapman in the ninth. Chapman struck out the side for the save.
“Just didn’t put anybody away when I needed to,” Watson said. “All two-out runs. That can’t happen, especially the eighth inning. … Too much to the plate. Bad location, need to get those pitches down, that’s why the bloops get through, because they’re up.
“The guys played a great game. Just one of those nights. Put it away and get out there [today].”
One swing by Andrew McCutchen and a mammoth swat by Alvarez off Reds starter Mat Latos powered the Pirates to 4-1 lead in the fourth.
An RBI single by Russell Martin in the sixth gave the Pirates a 5-1 lead, and they appeared to be on their way to riding another strong start by Locke to a win.
Billy Hamilton managed to reach safely on a leadoff bunt in the first.
The ball was fielded cleanly by Gaby Sanchez, but when he tried to tag Hamilton in the basepath, Hamilton jumped and eluded the tag. He scored on a double by Zack Cozart.
Locke gave up a double and single in the second, but used a strikeout and 2-6-3 double play to get out of the inning.
He finished his outing after 61⁄3 innings, giving up nine hits, three runs (one earned) and no walks. He struck out five.
“Just trying to throw more strikes instead of balls,” Locke said. “Was trying to get ahead of guys. I know we were very sporadic, a lot of deep counts, the pitch count was up a little bit. Just have to find a way to get back down in the zone and keep attacking.”
Latos retired the Pirates in order through two innings before giving up a two-out single to Locke in the third.
McCutchen took a 1-1 fastball deep off Latos to tie the score in the fourth. Neil Walker singled and Martin walked to put two aboard for Alvarez, who stroked his 15th home run this season.
Latos was visited twice by the training staff and eventually was deemed done after five innings with “low back spasms.”
He gave up three hits, four runs (three earned) and two home runs. He walked two and struck out five.
The Pirates had a prime chance to tack onto their lead in the eighth but Ike Davis struck out with the bases loaded on a fastball low and away from reliever Curtis Partch.
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