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HBP buffet ends in 5-4 Pirates victory

Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The Bucs beat the Reds 5-4 on Wednesday night, winning the hard way while getting hit by four pitches.

The Pirates hit four solo home runs in this one, notching five runs despite only six hits. Here's how the scoring went down through the first eight innings.

-P- In the first, Billy Hamilton tripled down the line, then came home on a flare single by Brandon Phillips.

-P- In the fourth, Andrew McCutchen led off with a line-drive homer to right, his seventh of the year.

-P- In the bottom of that inning, Jay Bruce homered to left.

-P- In the fifth, David Freese homered to right center.

-P- In the bottom of the inning, Tucker Barnhart led off with a double, moved up on Alfredo Simon's sacrifice, and came home on Zack Cozart's sacrifice fly.

-P- In the top of the seventh, Jung Ho Kang caught hold of a curveball, basically hitting it with one hand, and it flew out to left for a homer.

-P- In the eighth, it was Josh Harrison's turn, as he blasted off to right center for his second homer of the year.

Seems pretty straightforward, right? The Pirates scored on four separate occasions, the Reds three. Only the score was actually 4-4 due in part to a run the Bucs gifted the Reds in the fourth. In the top of the inning, Simon had brushed back Francisco Cervelli and then hit Kang with a pitch, and Juan Nicasio and the Pirates immediately retaliated by hitting Phillips to lead off the inning.

That began a volley of HBPs that the two teams could plausibly deny were intentional, and there were six for the game between the two teams, including four by the Reds. The one that mattered most, though, was Phillips', because Bruce homered to score him.

I get that pitchers retaliate after HBPs in order to protect their teammates, and that there's all kinds of history of the Pirates and Reds and HBPs. But the thing is that HBPs have consequences. When you hit a batter, particularly a leadoff batter, you're really just increasing the other team's chances of winning. Via Tangotiger, the average run expectancy since 2010 of having none on and no outs is .481 runs; the average expectancy of a man on first and no outs is .859 runs. So, essentially, by hitting Phillips, the Pirates gave the Reds a third of a run. That was the Reds' punishment.

I don't know -- I can't quantify the value of having a happy clubhouse, or preventing injuries to one's own players (although, in this case, the Phillips HBP didn't exactly stop the Reds from throwing at the Pirates for the rest of the game). Maybe hitting Phillips really was worth it for the Pirates. But it seems to me that the better revenge would have been to simply beat them.

In this case, of course, the Pirates actually did win, because in the ninth, Kang reached on a single and moved up on Cozart's throwing error, then came home on Jordy Mercer's bloop single. In between all that, though, we had one hit batsman after another (leading to the ejections of Ross Ohlendorf and Bryan Price in the ninth), along with some very annoying replay delays (including one that, in my view, the officials didn't get right, overturning a safe call on what should have been a Starling Marte stolen base when Phillips pushed him off the bag; Marte and Clint Hurdle were then ejected). Maybe the replays are neither here nor there, but this was not a particularly fun game to watch, and one wonders how much protection the HBPs provided for either team when one just seemed to lead to another throughout the game.

Well, whatever. The Pirates escaped with a win, and no one got injured. I do wonder, though, about the risk involved in the Bucs participating in this goon-like game, both to their own players and to their chances of actually winning.