Jones' blast, bullpen lead Pirates over Reds
If Garrett Jones' game-tying, eighth-inning home run does not rouse the Pirates' dormant offense, what will?
Jones became the second player in PNC Park's history to hit a home run that reached the Allegheny River on the fly. Jones hooked a 92-mph pitch from Reds reliever Jonathan Broxton over the right-field seats and into the river Sunday afternoon.
The two-run shot, combined with 10 shutout innings from the Pirates' bullpen, set up Travis Snider's 11th-inning heroics: an RBI single that allowed the Pirates to avoid being swept by the Reds with a 5-4 win.
Thirty-one home runs have bounced, rolled or otherwise traversed the Riverwalk into the Ohio River tributary, but with his soaring, majestic shot Jones joined Daryle Ward — whose home run splashed down on July 6, 2002 — as the only players to reach the river on a fly during the game. Jones' shot had enough elevation to clear the foul pole. It estimated at 463 feet.
“It was an anger-frustration swing,” said Jones of his sixth homer of the year. “I just put everything into the swing. ... It just felt like everything was on time.”
Jones' frustration stemmed from leaving a runner in scoring position during his previous at bat.
But there also was frustration as a team the Pirates had been shut out for 19 straight innings until Pedro Alvarez's solo home run in the second Sunday — the only hit Reds starter Mat Latos allowed in his first five innings of work. Latos allowed two runs over six innings, the other run a sixth-inning RBI single by Andrew McCutchen that scored Alex Presley.
There was the frustration of being an unbalanced team. The Pirates entered ranked 12th in the National League in batting average (.241) and 10th in runs. Run prevention has been mostly responsible for the Pirates' .614 winning percentage (35-22).
If the Pirates' pen was frustrated in being called upon to pick up an entire game's worth of work Sunday, it didn't show.
Starter Jeanmar Gomez left with forearm tightness after one inning, an inning in which he allowed four runs and six batters to reach base.
“It was tight, and it wasn't in a good place,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “You can't push a guy out there when he tells you his elbow's tight and he doesn't think he can pitch.”
Five Pirates relievers combined to allow just five hits over 10 shutout innings. The Pirates' 10 shutout innings of relief was the club's longest such streak since producing 11 2⁄3 scoreless innings April 8, 2011, in a 14-inning win over the Colorado Rockies.
The Pirates' bullpen entered the game with the best ERA in baseball (2.67) and third most innings pitched (206), trailing only Houston and Toronto.
“They reset the bar and pushed it up where it's probably never been,” Hurdle said.
“The resolve that the club showed, the bullpen in particular throughout the day, they came off the field, and I tipped my hat to them. It's a believable win. A lot of people say unbelievable, but it's a believable win.”
Vin Mazzrao and Bryan Morris combined for six shutout innings, providing a bridge to the late-inning power arms of Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli and Justin Wilson.
Melancon and Grilli were their usual flawless selves in the eighth and ninth, and Wilson struck out a pair of Reds batters with 96-mph fastballs in the 10th. Wilson also pitched a scoreless 11th to pick up the win after Russell Martin reached on an error and advanced to second on an Alvarez walk. Snider followed with a liner to right off Alfredo Simon for the win.
“The bullpen guys have thrown quite a bit lately, and, obviously, a worst-case scenario for today's game was for Jeanmar to come out of the game early.” Morris said. “My goal was to pitch to contact as early in the count as I could so I could go multiple innings. That's what we needed. ... We gave the offense a chance to come back.”