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Jon Niese's 3 solo homers allowed lead to 3-2 Pirates loss

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Niese allowed three home runs and the Pirates' offense couldn't come up with much as the Bucs lost 3-2 before a crowd of ... let's just call it 17 people on a Monday night in Cincinnati.

Niese struck out four batters and walked one over 6.2 innings, but his start wasn't a good one, because those 6.2 decent-seeming innings were interspersed with significant mistakes.

The first of those came against leadoff batter Zack Cozart, to whom Niese threw a hanging breaking ball that all but came with a card reading "crush me"; Cozart did, and the Reds went up 1-0. The second was on a fastball to Joey Votto that caught too much of the plate, and Votto blasted it to the opposite field. And the third was on a changeup to Tucker Barnhart that barely cleared the wall in left. The Reds announcers mentioned it was the first homer the switch-hitting Barnhart had hit from the right side of the plate in his entire professional career.

The pitches that led to those first two homers were clearly very poor ones. Based on the angle on the Reds broadcast, I'm less sure about the one to Barnhart. In any case, home runs have been a big problem for Niese, who has now allowed 10 of them in 40 innings. Perhaps that's an issue he'll be able to control better as the season goes on, since he's generally a ground-ball pitcher and hasn't had massive home-run problems in the past, but the gopherballs have been a big reason his year has been frustrating so far.

In between the Cozart bomb and the Votto and Barnhart ones, the Bucs briefly took the lead in the sixth. The three members of the Pirates' outfield loaded the bases to start the inning, and Francisco Cervelli and Jung Ho Kang brought two of them home with a sacrifice fly and a groundout, respectively. Overall, though, the Pirates managed just four hits in six innings against Reds starter Dan Straily, a nondescript righty who seems like one of those pitchers the Pirates "should be" clobbering but frequently don't, since individual games often don't fit within simple categories.