I did a double-take looking at the scoreboard around the sixth or seventh inning. The Reds led 3-0, but it felt a lot more like 6-0 or 7-0.
Of course, that 3-0 lead stood as the Pirates lost their fifth straight and seventh of their last eight on a night when Gerrit Cole's first not-so-good start coincided with the Bucs' continued offensive struggles.
Todd Frazier (of course) tripled and scored when Josh Harrison watched Brandon Phillips' grounder roll to a stop in fair territory in the fourth inning. Phillips wisely advanced all the way to third base on Jay Bruce's groundout against a shifted infield. That factored in an ill-advised decision to intentionally walk No. 8 hitter Tucker Barnhart with two outs to get to pitcher Mike Leake, who had actually homered in his previous start. This time Leake laced a book-rule double to left field to plate Phillips.
Ol' pal Marlon Byrd smashed a no-doubt home run to center field in the fifth to put the Pirates in a 3-0 hole. Cole was done after five innings, with eight hits, four strikeouts and two walks.
That's all it takes to feel like a game is over these days. The Pirates only struck out twice against Leake (he of the 16.3% career strikeout rate), instead pounding the ball into the ground over and over and over (and not drawing a single walk), as the Reds starter got through eight innings with just 105 pitches.
The Pirates did threaten in the seventh, when a questionable runners interference call on Gregory Polanco ended the inning. (I was in the park and didn't see any replays, but, if Pirates Twitter is to be believed, the Bucs had a legitimate beef.)
It wasn't the best night for the umpires. Joey Votto was ejected apparently for throwing his helmet after he struck out swinging to end the top of the third.
It was an odd scene. Votto already was walking to his position when home plate umpire Chris Conroy (who really wanted to get on TV ... or Bucs Dugout) gave the signal to throw him out, and Votto spent the inning break warming up. Vot sprinted in and may have bumped Conroy when he finally realized he had been ejected -- he'll surely face a suspension.
On the plus side for the Pirates, Rob Scahill, Arquimedes Caminero and Tony Watson combined on four innings of scoreless relief, Jung-Ho Kang went 2-for-4, including legging out a double on a grounder against Aroldis Chapman, and, umm ... Clint Hurdle garden gnomes on Thursday?