Reds tame Pirates' hot pitching
By Rob Biertempfel
Published: Friday, May 31, 2013, 10:24 p.m.
Pirates pitchers are stymieing opponents at a historic rate this season. But it doesn't mean much unless Pirates batters come through.
The Cincinnati Reds on Friday made the most of what they got off left-hander Wandy Rodriguez, and the Pirates did next to nothing against righty Johnny Cueto.
A pair of solo homers by Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips were more than enough to lead the Reds past the punchless Pirates, 6-0, at PNC Park.
“We're really good,” Bruce said. “We're a team that's capable of scoring a lot of runs a lot of times.”
The Pirates finished with one hit: a soft single by Brandon Inge.
“Brandon saved us,” said Neil Walker, who went 0 for 3 with a walk.
Pirates pitchers are holding opponents to a .222 batting average. According to STATS, that's the lowest in the National League in the past 100 years. It's the best in the majors since 1968, when the Cleveland Indians, Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers all held batters under .220.
Pirates pitchers have held opponents to a .203 average at PNC Park.
That's the second-lowest average among all teams in the past 90 years, trailing only the 1969 Indians, who held foes to a .201 mark at Cleveland Stadium.
Rodriguez (6-3) went seven innings and allowed two runs on five hits. He served up both home runs, including Bruce's unlikely shot.
“A very professional effort by Wandy,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He gave us what we needed. He kept us in the game.”
Before Friday, Bruce was 2 for 32 (.063) with 16 strikeouts against Rodriguez. Bruce flew out in the second inning, then finally solved Rodriguez in the fourth.
With one out, Bruce hit a fastball over the center-field wall. The ball caromed off a fan sitting in the first row of seats and fell back onto the field, but it easily cleared the fence, and the umpires did not hesitate to signal a home run.
“A 2-0 count, he knew the fastball was coming,” Rodriguez said. “I needed to throw it in a good location. I didn't, and you saw what happened.”
It was Bruce's eighth homer of the season. He's gone deep seven times in his past 20 games.
“I think I'm a better hitter than I've shown against (Rodriguez) in the past,” Bruce said. “He gave me a pitch I could handle.”
The Reds iced it with two runs on two hits in the eighth. Reliever Mike Zagurski hit Phillips with a pitch, then later threw a wild pitch that allowed Phillips to score. Derrick Robinson's single scored Bruce.
Zagurski let in another run in the ninth with three walks, a hit and two more wild pitches. Bryan Morris also walked in a run.
“Adrenaline got the best of (Zagurski),” Hurdle said. “His delivery was kind of quick.”
The Pirates' bullpen was worn down after a couple of 11-inning games in the previous three days against the Detroit Tigers, so Hurdle had to stick with Zagurski for as long as possible. Zagurski threw 57 pitches and got just five outs.
“No excuses. Poor effort,” Zagurski said. “If adrenaline was an issue, I need to find a way to control it.”
In his third start since coming off the disabled list, Cueto held the Pirates hitless for the first 41⁄3 innings.
Cueto (3-0) missed nearly five weeks because of a strained right oblique. He went on the DL on April 15, two days after working 41⁄3 innings and taking a no-decision against the Pirates.
With one out in the first inning Friday, Cueto walked Walker and hit Andrew McCutchen in the ribs with a pitch. But Cueto escaped that jam and went on to notch 12 straight outs.
Inge broke the spell by blooping a single into left field in the fifth. Inge was a late replacement for third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who was scratched from the lineup with mouth pain after having two wisdom teeth extracted Thursday.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib. Staff writer Bob Cohn contributed to this report.
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