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Pirates' defensive struggles lead to 6-5, 11-inning loss

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The Pirates couldn't complete a sweep against the Reds, losing a seesaw 11-inning game 6-5 Sunday afternoon.

The first several innings darted by quickly. Jeff Locke looked considerably better than he had in some previous starts this season, while Reds starter Tim Adleman flashed mid-90s velocity and looked better than you'd expect from an indy-ball veteran making his big-league debut.

The Pirates drew first blood, on a leadoff homer by Gregory Polanco in the fifth. But the Reds got to Locke in the sixth. Tucker Barnhart led off with a double, and Zack Cozart walked. After an odd play in which Starling Marte collected a softly hit ball in shallow left and gunned Barnhart down on a force out, Joey Votto brought home a run with a ground-ball single. Locke then intentionally walked Brandon Phillips to face lefty Jay Bruce, but Bruce brought home two runs with a double, although the top half of the inning ended with Phillips getting thrown out at the plate.

The Pirates would come back in the seventh. Marte led off with an infield single, and Ted Williams Sean Rodriguez tripled into the left-field corner to bring him home. Rodriguez then came home himself when Matt Joyce tied the game with a soft single to center.

The Reds quickly retook the lead in the eighth. Cozart led off and made it all the way to second on Polanco's error, then came up with some sort of injury and got replaced by Tyler Holt. Holt moved to third on Hamilton's bunt. The Bucs intentionally walked Votto, and Holt came home on a strange, unplanned-looking play in which Votto tried to steal second and got caught in a rundown. Holt then darted home, and the Pirates would have nailed him had Chris Stewart not let the ball come out of his glove on the tag.

The Pirates tied it again in the bottom half on Marte's RBI single, but Arquimedes Caminero entered in the ninth and coughed up an Adam Duvall single and a Scott Schebler double. The Bucs might have had a shot at getting Schebler at the plate, but Marte missed the cutoff man on his throw.

The Bucs thus headed into the bottom of the ninth down 5-4, and the Reds appeared to be sealing a victory as Ross Ohlendorf retired Stewart and Jason Rogers. With two outs, though, John Jaso hit a line-drive homer to right-center to tie the game. It was Jaso's second homer in two games, and also his second of the season, and the Bucs and Reds headed to extra innings with a score of 5-5.

The tenth inning went by relatively uneventfully, but in the 11th, Eugenio Suarez led off with a triple when Marte dove at Suarez's liner and let it get by him. After a walk, Schebler doubled in the go-ahead run when Polanco hesitated on his way to the ball. The Bucs got out of further trouble on a baserunning mistake by the Reds, but the most important damage was already done.

A ton of strange things happened in this game, so many that I'm not sure how accurately I'm capturing or summarizing them. It's a struggle to keep all the crucial plays in your mind when you're writing about a game with this many of them. In general, though, the Pirates' defense in this game was poor, and their timely hitting wasn't enough to make up for it. The loss snapped the Bucs' six-game winning streak. They'll now await the first-place Cubs.