Elias Diaz's homer lifts Pirates; Jung Ho Kang singles in return
CINCINNATI — The Pirates decided to give Jung Ho Kang a few at-bats this weekend as a reward for working back from wrist surgery. His first plate appearance in two years was a hit.
Kang had a pinch-hit single in the seventh inning as Pittsburgh pulled away to its seventh straight win over Cincinnati, 8-2, on Friday night. Elias Diaz hit a tiebreaking homer, and Colin Moran also homered and drove in three runs.
Kang’s single was the most long-awaited.
The 31-year-old infielder hadn’t played in the majors since September 2016 because of visa issues related to DUI arrests in his native South Korea. Earlier this season, he played in the Pirates minor league system before a left-wrist injury required surgery. The Pirates decided to add him to the roster for the final series.
“He worked hard to put himself in position to be back before the season ended,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
Asked whether he was nervous when he finally got to bat, Kang didn’t need the translator to reply.
“A lot,” he said.
Through a translator, he added, “A lot of mixed emotions stepping into the box, even until the last moment.”
Otherwise, it was another typical win. The Pirates are 13-4 against their Ohio River rivals this season with their longest winning streak against Cincinnati since 1991, when they took nine in a row.
“Pittsburgh’s been rough on us,” interim manager Jim Riggleman said.
The Reds are ending another disappointing season in a rut, dropping six straight and 11 of 14. Their loss Friday was their 94th of the season, matching their total for each of the last two years. They’ve dropped at least 90 games in four straight seasons, one shy of the club record from 1930-34.
Corey Dickerson doubled in the first inning off Anthony DeSclafani (7-8), who completed another injury-shortened season. He missed the first two months with a strained oblique. DeSclafani lost each of his last four starts.
Diaz snapped a 2-2 tie in the fourth inning with his 10th homer off DeSclafani, who lasted five innings. Moran added a sacrifice fly, a solo homer and a run-scoring single as the Pirates pulled away.
Since moving a bit farther from the plate, Moran has gotten better results. He’s batting .300 with three homers and 10 RBIs in September.
“I’m just trying to learn to be consistent,” Moran said. “I’m trying not to get too down on myself, use it as a learning experience.”
Nick Kingham gave up Eugenio Suarez’s two-run homer , his first since Sept. 10, during his 3 2/3 innings. Steven Brault (6-3) allowed three hits in 2 1/3 innings.
Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart had a career-high five hits, including a triple, a bunt single and a two-run homer.
“It stinks that we lost, but that’s a night you won’t forget,” Barnhart said.
Notes : Dickerson is batting .382 in 16 games against the Reds this season with eight doubles, a triple, five homers and 13 RBIs. At Great American Ball Park, he’s 15 for 33. … The Reds are 63-79 since April 19, when Bryan Price was fired and Riggleman took over on an interim basis. He’s one of the candidates under consideration for the job moving ahead.