Reds hit 4 solo homers, defeat Pirates, 4-1
CINCINNATI — Great American Ball Park is not a favorable venue for any pitcher. And it is a particularly unwelcoming expanse for a weakened staff like the Pirates', who began a four-game series with the Reds on Monday without 80 percent of their Opening Day starting rotation.
The vast PNC Park outfield absorbs mistakes. The Pirates' home is the most difficult place to homer in this season, according to ESPN's Park Factors.
The Reds' cramped home is the fifth-easiest place to homer, and it was the home run — four Cincinnati solo shots — that was pivotal in the Reds' 4-1 series-opening victory. The Reds are 1½ games ahead of the Pirates for second place in the NL Central.
Pirates starter Francisco Liriano entered having not allowed a home run this season, a stretch covering seven starts and 42 innings. His run of flyballs-staying-in-the-park perfection came to an end on the north bank of the Ohio.
Liriano allowed a fourth-inning solo home run to Zack Cozart, who smashed a hanging slider over the left-field wall. In the sixth inning, Liriano left a 92 mph fastball in the middle of the plate, and Todd Frazier homered to left.
“The one slider just kind of hung over the plate. The pitch Frazier hit was intended to be a two-seamer going down and away, but it cut back over the plate,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “If you make mistakes up in the zone here, balls that might not be out in other ballparks are out — they are in the seats.”
Of course, Liriano's two mistakes Monday would have left PNC Park, too. Both home runs reached the second deck. Frazier's shot traveling 443 feet, Cozart's 437 feet.
Other than the home runs, Liriano (5-3) was solid, giving the pitching-depleted Pirates just what they needed: a quality start.
The 29-year-old allowed just three other hits over six innings. He walked two and struck out six. He's struck out 55 in 48 innings this season. His 10.3 strikeouts-per-nine innings rate is nearly equal to that of his breakout 2006 season (10.7), when he was one of the most electric lefties in the game before he underwent Tommy John surgery.
Liriano's slider was sharp at times, and he also mixed in a changeup and an 89-93 mph fastball.
“I got better throwing my fastball for strikes,” said Liriano, who threw 55 of his 84 pitches for strikes. “I made two mistakes.”
Not only are the dimensions cramped at the Reds' home, but there are strong jet streams in the park to right- and left-center field.
Joey Votto found the left-field jet stream in the eighth against Bryan Morris, lining a ball just over the wall to give the Reds a 3-1 lead.
After Brandon Phillips grounded out to third, Jay Bruce hit an opposite-field home run to left center.
Reds starter Mike Leake allowed one run and six hits over seven innings, the lone damage Russell Martin's RBI double in the sixth.
“He keeps the ball out of the middle of the plate,” Hurdle said of Leake. “He changes speeds. … He controls the barrel.”
The Pirates' task does not get any easier the rest of the series. They face Reds ace Mat Latos on Tuesday and finish with Homer Bailey on Thursday. Bailey has pitched like an ace for much of the season and no-hit the Pirates at PNC Park in September.
Charlie Morton will match up with Latos. Brandon Cumpton meets Bailey.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates blanked in loss to Cubs
- Vote set at SEC to reveal pay gap between CEO and median employee at publicly traded companies
- Starkey: Steelers still knockin’ on Canton’s door
- Heyward-Bey looks to make impact on special teams with Steelers
- Duquesne men’s basketball team lands verbal commitment from guard Littleson
- Philanthropist and one-time GOP powerhouse Elsie Hillman dies at 89
- Judge says heroin addicts fare better in treatment than prison
- Teachers want new contract in Monessen
- Redevelopment Authority’s future at risk
- 23 Gateway School District nonunion employees receive raises
- Mt. Pleasant approves PennDOT pact