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Pirates lose again to an underachieving NL Central foe, 3-1

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David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Fourteen hours after the Dr. Jekyll Pirates beat the team with the best record in baseball emphatically to earn a series win on the road, the Mr. Hyde Pirates bungled away the opener of their subsequent series with the last-place Cincinnati Reds, 3-1. The loss was made possible by four Pirate errors and punctuated by a galling baserunning gaffe in the top of the ninth.

With the nationally televised game last night followed by a flight to Cincinnati, manager Clint Hurdle constructed an unconventional lineup for today's game--Travis Snider starting in left field, Chris Stewart catching, and Sean Rodriguez making his first start of the year at shortstop. In the bottom of the first with the recently ineffective Jeff Locke on the mound, Rodriguez booted his first chance at short off the bat of Todd Frazier. But Locke ended the inning by erasing the hot-hitting Joey Votto on a double play.

He was not so fortunate in the bottom of the second. Rodriguez made another error on his second chance, this one off the bat of Brandon Phillips. Jay Bruce followed with a single on the 13th pitch he saw from Locke, and then Eugenio Suarez gave the Reds their first run on a single that scored Phillips. After a walk to Adam Duvall loaded the bases, Locke retired Tucker Barnhart on a fly to Gregory Polanco in medium right field. But Polanco's weak throw bounced in front of the plate and allowed Bruce to score from third, and then neither Stewart nor Locke, who was too close to home to back up properly, were able to stop the forward motion of the ball. It wound up in the camera bay, enabling Suarez to score too. The official scorer initially charged that error, the Pirates' third in two innings, to Stewart, but later charged the error to Polanco, indicating some ambiguity about which fielder made the greater contribution to the unfolding debacle. Locke was able to get two outs and keep Barnhart at third though, aided by a nice play from Jung Ho Kang on a slow bouncer for the final out.

Containing the damage as he did probably earned Locke a leadoff at bat against Reds starter Anthony DeSclafani in the bottom of the third, and in fact he went on to give the Pirates five strong innings: he gave up a total of three runs, only one of which was earned, four hits, and two walks, and he struck out six. His day ended in the bottom of the sixth when, after the Pirates added a fourth error with a Pedro Special off the bat of Phillips leading off the inning, Locke walked Bruce. Jared Hughes bailed the Pirates out in the inning, aided by a pickoff of Phillips at second.

DeSclafani held the Pirates scoreless over seven innings, efficiently spacing out five harmless hits, getting several first-pitch outs, striking out six, and not walking anyone. Jaff Decker led off the top of the eighth for the Pirates with a pinch-hit double and moved to third on Polanco's grounder to the right side. Neil Walker drove in the Pirates only run with a single, which ended DeSclafani's day in favor of Jumbo Diaz. Diaz threw four balls nowhere near the plate to Andrew McCutchen followed by three to Kang, and the Pirates appeared to be in business. But Diaz recovered with a called strike, a 98-mph swinging strike, and a 3-6-1 double play on what would have been ball four.

Aroldis Chapman came in for the save in the top of the ninth. After striking out pinch-hitter Josh Harrison, Chapman hit Rodriguez on the foot, bringing in pinch-hitter Starling Marte as the potential tying run. And then...

Chapman picked Rodriguez off first.

Why, Sean? Why?

Marte struck out, and that was that.