Win: J. Hoover (5-5)
Loss: K. Farnsworth (1-1)
Save A. Chapman (38)
PIRATES BLOW THREE-RUN LEAD IN THE NINTH
Mark Melancon suffered his second blown save in three games and the Cincinnati Reds (88-66) stunned the Pittsburgh Pirates (88-66) Friday night with a 6-5 come from behind win to move into a tie for second place.
Leading 5-2 and one out from closing out the game, a wild throw by shortstop Jordy Mercer to first base on a routine groundball with two outs, saw the Pirates unravel as the Reds plated three runs in the 9th inning and then Joey Votto hit a solo home run in the top of the 10th to put the Reds ahead 6-5 in extra innings. Aroldis Chapman would close out the game in the bottom of the 10th for the Reds to record his 38th save of the season.
In the ninth, right handed hitters got to Melancon for the second straight game but he got no help defensively as the Pirates never rebounded following Mercer’s critical error.
“If I make a good throw right there, the game is over and all the stuff that happened never happens,” an upset Mercer said afterwards. “It was tough. We played a great game, everybody played a great game and to have it happen like that, it’s just a bad throw.”
Zack Cozart singled after Mercer’s error to put runners on the corners and Reds manager Dusty Baker put in base-stealing specialist Billy Hamilton to pinch ran for Cozart and Hamilton stole second on a close play at second as Russell Martin nearly caught Hamilton stealing.
It put runners at second and third, Devin Mesoraco then hit a hard grounder to third that bounced off Pedro Alvarez’s glove and the ball rolled into left field, scoring Todd Frazier and Billy Hamilton. It was a play Alvarez should have made.
“We should have won that game,” Melancon said. “That was our game to win.”
LIRIANO LIGHTS OUT
The Pirates wasted an excellent start from Francisco Liriano who allowed 3 hits and 2 earned runs in eight innings. Liriano struck out 7 and walked 3 and his stuff was just unhittable at times as he had a 91 mph slider working for him all night.
Liriano is a favorable matchup against the Reds because of Cincinnati’s heavy left handed lineup at the top of the order with Choo, Votto and Bruce. Liriano has held left handed batters to a .319 OPS and he’s the ideal candidate to start were the Reds and Pirates meet in a one game playoff.
“Lights out,” manager Clint Hurdle called Liriano’s start.
Some will question Liriano not starting the ninth as he was at just 94 pitches, but Liriano said afterwards that he made the call. “I think I had enough,” Liriano said. “I just felt out of gas, and was feeling a little tired too.”
The Cincinnati Reds jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning after a Ryan Ludwick RBI single to center and then the Pirates answered back as Jose Tabata and Neil Walker hit back to back homers to leadoff the bottom of the 1st for the Pirates. Tabata who is hitting .280/.341/.427 on the season, hit his 6th home run of the season and went 2-4 with 2 RBIs, adding an RBI single to center in the 7th to push the Pirates lead to 5-2.
Walker’s solo shot in the 1st was his 12th home run of the season, marking the fourth straight year he has collected 12 home runs or more.
“Who said it was going to be easy?” manager Clint Hurdle said. “Who said it was going to be easy? We’ve been very good winning as a team, losing as a team. we’ve got to find a way to finish things off.”
NL CENTRAL DIVISION RACE
Two costly losses in three games has the division title looking more problematic for the Pirates with eight games remaining.
1. St. Louis Cardinals (90-64)
2. Cincinnati Reds (88-66)
3. Pittsburgh Pirates (88-66)
STAT OF THE NIGHT: “The last time the Pirates lost after having a lead of 3 or more runs in the 9th inning or later was July 11, 2009 at the Phillies. They had won 163 consecutive games since then in that situation” — Source: ESPN Stats & Research