Pirates sweep Reds; No homers for Alvarez
CINCINNATI — Pedro Alvarez knows home runs.
Alvarez clubbed 36 homers this season, the most by a Pirate since Brian Giles hit 38 in 2002. Alvarez has hit a blast into the Allegheny River. He's launched line drives that climbed center field batter's eyes. He's smacked everything from a solo shot to a grand slam.
Alvarez did not go deep in the Pirates' 4-2 victory Sunday against the Cincinnati Reds, which cost him a chance to claim sole possession of the National League home run crown. But he was able to crack a smile when teammate Jordy Mercer rumbled for an inside-the-park home run.
“He got the run across, right? That's all that matters,” Alvarez said. “It's good.”
Because the regular-season finale against the Reds had no bearing on playoff positioning — the Pirates had already clinched home field for the wild-card game — manager Clint Hurdle rested all of his everyday players except Alvarez.
“I wanted to give him the opportunity to finish an accomplishment that would be special,” Hurdle said. “A couple more swings of the bat to see if he hits a homer.”
Heading into the game, Alvarez and the Arizona Diamondbacks' Paul Goldschmidt were tied for the NL home run lead. Goldschmidt also failed to homer Sunday.
“I wasn't worried about that at all,” Alvarez said. “My focus is to help this team get as far as we want to go. We're playing some pretty good baseball, and I want to keep it going.”
Against Reds right-hander Greg Reynolds (1-3), Alvarez did not hit a ball out of the infield. He walked, was hit by a pitch and popped out to shortstop.
Although Alvarez was shut out, the Pirates did collect two homers, including Mercer's inside-the-park trip around the bases. Garrett Jones went a more conventional route, launching a ball into the right-center field seats in the eighth inning.
Leading off the second inning, Mercer put an excuse-me swing on a 79 mph curveball. He hit a low line drive to right field.
“He got me off balance a little bit, but I was able to get some barrel on it,” Mercer said. “I didn't think (outfielder Jay Bruce) was going to dive for it, but he did.”
The ball skipped past Bruce and rolled to the wall. It took a while for center fielder Shin-Soo Choo to track down the ball, so third base coach Nick Leyva kept windmilling his arm.
“I knew I had a triple,” Mercer said. “But Nick just kept waving me, so I just kept going. He told me he wasn't going to stop me, anyway.”
Mercer scored with a slide, although the Reds never relayed the ball to the plate.
Righty Brandon Cumpton started in place of Gerrit Cole, who was scratched so he can be a reserve pitcher in Tuesday's wild-card game.
Cumpton (2-1) worked five innings and blanked the Reds on two hits. He walked one and struck out three.
Reds manager Dusty Baker started his regulars, but yanked Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier after the fourth inning, when it began to drizzle at Great American Ball Park.