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Pirates hold on to beat Reds, 7-6

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pirates defeated the Reds 7-6 in an extremely long game filled with walks, challenges, caught stealings, good defense, terrible defense ... you name it.

Jeff Locke got the game off to a poor start, giving up three runs in the first after giving up a series of singles, most of them on the ground. He then induced a potential double-play ball from Eugenio Suarez, but Jordy Mercer botched the throw to first to allow two runs to score. Reds starter Josh Smith, making his big-league debut, walked the bases full in the bottom of the inning, but Josh Harrison grounded into a double play, ending the frame with the Bucs behind 3-0.

Smith then led off the second inning with a single, and the Reds proceeded to load the bases. This time, Locke managed to strand all three runners, and things proceeded normally for a few innings (well, after Gregory Polanco's stolen base got overturned in the third; he would also have a stolen base overturned later in the game).

In the fourth, Billy Hamilton reached on a bunt single, stole second as Pedro Alvarez made a poor throw on a pickoff, then moved to third on an error by Alvarez, who shows few signs of improvement at first base. Locke then walked Todd Frazier, and Hamilton scored on Jay Bruce's grounder, making it 4-0.

I couldn't help thinking that the game would have almost been effectively over if Johnny Cueto had made his scheduled start. Fortunately, he didn't. Smith hadn't been impressive to that point, chucking 90 MPH fastballs and walking batter after batter, but the Pirates had failed to take advantage. In the bottom of the fourth, though, they broke through in a big way. Neil Walker walked, Josh Harrison singled and then Pedro Alvarez brought Walker home with a double. Then Francisco Cervelli tied the game with one swing, smashing a fly ball to center.

At that point, Bryan Price replaced Smith, who had walked six batters in three-plus innings. But the Bucs weren't done. Polanco tripled to center off Pedro Villarreal, then came home as Starling Marte reached on Eugenio Suarez's error. Then Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run homer of his own to put the Pirates up 7-4.

Rob Scahill (who turned out to be healthy enough to pitch; the Pirates had brought Chris Volstad to Pittsburgh today because they were concerned about Scahill) gave up a run in the fifth, but Clint Hurdle brought in Jared Hughes to get Todd Frazier and finish out the inning.

Arquimedes Caminero entered in the sixth and promptly gave up a solo homer to Bruce, which made me wonder if the Pirates were about to give up their lead, and if they did, whether they'd have the relievers they would need to pitch in extra innings. Caminero struck out two batters that inning, though, and continued to the seventh, when he let Hamilton get to third on a single, a grounder and a stolen base but whiffed Joey Votto and got a fantastic catch from Marte when Frazier lined to left.

Tony Watson and Mark Melancon were brilliant in the late innings, each striking out the side. Melancon's series of whiffs was highly encouraging -- as effective as he's been this season, he hasn't gotten strikeouts the way he once did, and if he does, that will be the last piece of the puzzle.