TribLIVE

| Sports


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

All-star Watson blows late lead as Reds rally past Pirates

Getty Images - Pirates reliever Tony Watson pitches in the eighth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on Friday, July 11, 2014 in Cincinnati. Watson gave up three runs in the eighth inning for his his first loss of the season.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Pirates reliever Tony Watson pitches in the eighth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on Friday, July 11, 2014 in Cincinnati. Watson gave up three runs in the eighth inning for his his first loss of the season.
AP - Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Locke throws against the Cincinnati Reds in the first inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Pirates starting pitcher Jeff Locke throws against the Cincinnati Reds in the first inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
AP - Pirates reliever Tony Watson wipes his brow in the eighth inning against the Reds on Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Pirates reliever Tony Watson wipes his brow in the eighth inning against the Reds on Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
Getty Images - Ramon Santiago of the Cincinnati Reds hits an RBI single to tie the game in the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park on July 11, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati defeated Pittsburgh 6-5.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Ramon Santiago of the Cincinnati Reds hits an RBI single to tie the game in the eighth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Great American Ball Park on July 11, 2014 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati defeated Pittsburgh 6-5.
AP - Pittsburgh Pirates' Jordy Mercer (10) walks to the dugout after striking out against Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati. Cincinnati won 6-5.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Pittsburgh Pirates' Jordy Mercer (10) walks to the dugout after striking out against Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati. Cincinnati won 6-5.
AP - Cincinnati Reds' Brayan Pena, left, congratulates relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman after they defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-5 in a baseball game, Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati. Pena drove in the winning run in the eighth inning and Chapman struck out the side in the ninth inning to earn his 20th save.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Cincinnati Reds' Brayan Pena, left, congratulates relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman after they defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-5 in a baseball game, Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati. Pena drove in the winning run in the eighth inning and Chapman struck out the side in the ninth inning to earn his 20th save.
AP - The Pirates' Pedro Alvarez hits a three-run home run off Reds starter Mat Latos in the fourth inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>The Pirates' Pedro Alvarez hits a three-run home run off Reds starter Mat Latos in the fourth inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
AP - Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton (6) can't reach a solo home run hit by Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen in the fourth inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Reds center fielder Billy Hamilton (6) can't reach a solo home run hit by Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen in the fourth inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
AP - The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen hits a solo home run off Reds starting pitcher Mat Latos in the fourth inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>The Pirates' Andrew McCutchen hits a solo home run off  Reds starting pitcher Mat Latos in the fourth inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
Getty Images - Pirates starter Jeff Locke pitches in the first inning against the Reds on Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Pirates starter Jeff Locke pitches in the first inning against the  Reds on Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
Getty Images - The Pirates' Gregory Polanco flies out in the third inning against the Reds on Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Pirates' Gregory Polanco flies out in the third inning against the Reds on Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
Getty Images - Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer runs down and tags out the Reds' Zack Cozart along the third-base line in the first inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer runs down and tags out the Reds' Zack Cozart along the third-base line in the first inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
Getty Images - The Reds' Billy Hamilton avoids the tag by the Pirates' Gaby Sanchez along the first-base line in the first inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Reds' Billy Hamilton avoids the tag by the Pirates' Gaby Sanchez along the first-base line in the first inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
Getty Images - The Pirates' Jordy Mercer forces out the Reds' Ramon Santiago at second base to start a double play to end the first inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Pirates' Jordy Mercer forces out the Reds' Ramon Santiago at second base to start a double play to end the first inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
AP - The Reds' Billy Hamilton (6) is safe at home as Pirates catcher Russell Martin waits for the throw in the first inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>The Reds' Billy Hamilton (6) is safe at home as Pirates catcher Russell Martin waits for the throw in the first inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
AP - Pirates second baseman Neil Walker and first baseman Ike Davis can't reach a foul ball hit by Reds' Brayan Pena in the eighth inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Pirates second baseman Neil Walker and first baseman Ike Davis can't reach a foul ball hit by Reds' Brayan Pena in the eighth inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
Getty Images - Pirates Catcher Russell Martin tags out the Reds' Ramon Santiago at home plate for the third out of the eighth inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Pirates Catcher Russell Martin tags out the Reds' Ramon Santiago at home plate for the third out of the eighth inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
Getty Images - The Reds' Zack Cozart the Pirates' Jeff Locke in the fifth inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Reds' Zack Cozart the Pirates' Jeff Locke in the fifth inning Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
Getty Images - The Pirates' Russell Martin hits an RBI single in the sixth inning against the Reds on Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Pirates' Russell Martin hits an RBI single in the sixth inning against the Reds on Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
Getty Images - The Pirates' Pedro Alvarez commits a throwing error against the Reds on Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Pirates' Pedro Alvarez commits a throwing error against the Reds on Friday, July 11, 2014, in Cincinnati.

Pirates/MLB Videos

Friday, July 11, 2014, 10:39 p.m.
 

CINCINNATI — Tony Watson is an All-Star. He has been one of the most reliable pitchers in baseball. He will represent the Pirates in Minneapolis next week, but Watson did not pitch like an All-Star on Friday night in Cincinnati in a 6-5 loss to the Reds.

The left-hander was brought in to protect a two-run lead in the eighth but instead produced the Pirates' 15th blown save of the season. That is tied for second in the major leagues and matches the Pirates' blown save total for all of last season.

Watson, who entered with a 0.84 ERA, had not allowed a home run since April 19 until Devin Mesoraco smashed a 96 mph fastball off the facing of the second deck in left field to cut the Pirates' lead to one. With two outs, Ramon Santiago tied it with a groundball single to center to score Ryan Ludwick, and Bryan Pena followed with a line-drive single to center to score Chris Heisey and give the Reds a 6-5 lead.

“I couldn't put anyone away when I needed to,” Watson said. “I was getting too much of the plate. … It's just one of those nights.”

Watson allowed five hits and three runs in two-thirds of an inning. His ERA spiked to 1.45. The bullpen has been tagged for three losses in the past five games. The Pirates are 12-25 against the division, excluding the Cubs.

“They were all two-strike hits,” Pirate manager Clint Hurdle said. “He has been lights-out for us all year.”

Reds closer Aroldis Chapman slammed the door in the ninth as another quality Jeff Locke start, and home runs from Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez, were wasted.

Locke was an All-Star last season. He's not going to Minneapolis next week, but he might be an even better pitcher.

He made his seventh straight quality start Friday, allowing one earned run over 6 23 innings.

Locke, 26, continued with the same plan Friday that has led him to success since being recalled from Triple-A: The lefty attacked the strike zone and leaned increasingly on a swing-and-miss changeup.

Locke did not walk a batter, and his walks-per-nine innings rate has fallen to 0.96 after he led the NL with 84 walks last season.

The other difference with Locke is his changeup. He generated five swinging strikes in the first inning, which matched or exceeded his swinging strike total in 10 starts from last season. Of the 14 swinging strikes Locke generated, nine came via changeups. Four of his five strikeouts came on changeups.

“Since I've come back up this year, I've had struggles with a consistent breaking ball,” Locke said. “I don't know if it's the fact the ball is completely different compared to up here.

“The changeup has been very reliable.”

Locke's ERA fell to 3.05 on the season. And unlike last season when he out-pitched his fielding-independent pitching value, this year his FIP (2.94) is lower than his ERA. That suggests this Locke is unlikely to have a second-half slide.

While Watson blew a Locke win opportunity, Alvarez's major league-worst 19th error did not help.

His MLB-worst 18th throwing error of the season might have been his worst throw of the season. Alvarez fielded a routine chopper from Ryan Ludwick in the seventh and uncorked a throw that sailed above the head of Gaby Sanchez by at least 10 feet as it came to rest well beyond the first-base fence. No other major league player has more than 10 throwing errors. The error led to two unearned runs.

Alvarez's throwing issues have become chronic, and so have the bullpen breakdowns.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Pirates

  1. Pirates planning on maximizing the versatility of Rodriguez
  2. Pirates notebook: Locke makes bid for final rotation spot, Tabata cut
  3. Pirates’ McCutchen leaves game early, says he is not hurt
  4. Pirates notebook: Richard doesn’t exercise opt-out clause in contract
  5. Reliever Hughes takes plenty of pride in being Pirates’ middle man
  6. Spring training breakdown: Pirates 3, Orioles 3, 10 inns.
  7. Pirates’ outfield may have few defensive peers
  8. Pirates again approach Polanco about contract extension
  9. Pirates pitchers finding success with expanded strike zone
  10. Pirates notebook: Reliever Holdzkom among three players cut
  11. Pirates’ search for division title rests on starting rotation’s health