Pirates edge Reds, 3-2, for 4th consecutive victory
The Pirates put up a lot of zeros Saturday against Cincinnati Reds right-hander Alfredo Simon. They got four hits over the first two innings and then ... nothing.
“I guess they left all the offense over at Heinz Field,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said, referring to Pitt's blowout victory over Delaware earlier in the day.
Yet, for the second day in a row, a little offense was just enough.
Pitcher Vance Worley snapped a personal three-game losing skid, and Neil Walker homered as the Pirates hung on for a 3-2 win over the reeling Reds.
One day after pulling out a win with two eighth-inning runs, the Pirates did all their scoring in the first inning. Their four-game winning streak matches their season high.
“These are the types of games you have to win if you're going to get to (the playoffs),” Walker said.
While the Pirates are in the playoff chase, the Reds already have begun to look toward next year. They've lost 33 one-run games this season.
“It's pretty amazing,” Reds third baseman Todd Frazier said. “Words can't explain what's going on. It's crazy to see how this year has (unfolded). Crazy.”
Worley (6-4) pitched 6 1⁄3 innings and allowed two runs (one earned) and three hits, walked two and struck out four. It was the right-hander's first victory since Aug. 8 and his best outing since July 28, when Worley tossed a four-hit shutout against the San Francisco Giants.
“I was able to get the ball down in the zone from the start of the game,” Worley said. “The last few outings, I was up in the zone. Today, it was a matter of working on the back side of the rubber, doing all my work over the rubber before I went home and getting the angle on the ball again.”
Simon (13-9) was done in by a three-run first inning. Simon pitched seven innings, gave up four hits and struck out seven.
Simon went 12-3 with a 2.70 ERA in 18 starts before the All-Star break. In nine starts since, he is 1-6 with a 4.62 ERA
With Travis Snider still sidelined by a sore hamstring, Andrew Lambo started in right field. Lambo, whose struggles at the plate cost him a chance to make the team out of spring training, was called up Friday from Triple-A Indianapolis.
“He's had some challenges, but now his time has come,” Hurdle said. “He's going to be here until the end. We're going to try to find places to plug him in to give him a chance to grow a little more than he had an opportunity to grow last year.”
With one out in the first inning, Lambo lined an opposite-field single to left. Andrew McCutchen walked. Walker smoked a first-pitch fastball over the right-field wall.
“(Simon) was trying to establish his fastball the first time through the order, and he was a little more tentative than we're used to seeing from him,” Walker said. “After he walked Cutch, I figured being aggressive was the right approach. It paid off.”
It was Walker's 18th home run, which ties him with George Grantham (1930) for second most in a season by a Pirates second baseman.
The leader is Bill Mazeroski, who went deep 19 times in 1958.
Russell Martin followed Walker's homer with a double. That was the end of the uprising, though.
Simon retired 16 of the next 17 batters, including 12 in a row from the third through the sixth innings. Josh Harrison's two-out single in the second inning was the Pirates' final hit of the game.
“I think we ticked him off in the first inning,” Walker said. “He stopped throwing as many fastballs and had success with that slider, cutter and split-change.”
Worley allowed one hit — Todd Frazier's solo homer — over the first five innings.
In the seventh, Worley hit Devin Mesoraco with a 2-2 pitch. After Brayan Pena singled, Worley was replaced by Justin Wilson.
With two outs, Zack Cozart hit a towering pop-up into shallow right field. First baseman Ike Davis muffed the catch attempt, and Mesoraco scored on the error.
“We have to find a way to be a better offensive club on a more consistent basis,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “We had some opportunities but weren't able to finish it off.”