The Pirates were banished from the airwaves tonight in favor of some sort of hockey game, but that ignominy may have been a blessing in disguise as they delivered a performance to forget, losing 9-2 to the Cincinnati Reds. Cincinnati's victory at PNC Park was its fourth in a row, with the latter three of those wins comprising a sweep of the Pirates.
The game itself was scoreless until the top of the fifth inning, at which point the wheels came off for Pirates starter Ivan Nova. The inning began with back-to-back doubles by Zack Cozart and Tucker Barnhart, resulting in the game's first run. Reds starter Amir Garrett then squared around to bunt, and Francisco Cervelli fielded the ball and aggressively targeted the lead runner. He had been successful in a prior attempt of a similar nature in the third inning, resulting in a double play, but his effort in the fifth ended poorly for the Pirates when Freese was unable to secure the throw, going in the books as a fielder's choice with no outs and an error on the third baseman. A single by Billy Hamilton and a double by Jose Peraza led to three additional runs, leaving the Pirates in a hole they would prove unable to escape.
The Reds extended their lead in the top of the seventh inning against struggling reliever Antonio Bastardo. The lefty began the inning with two quick outs, but then loaded the bases via an infield single and a pair of walks. All three runners then came home on a double by Eugenio Suarez. Felipe Rivero then entered the game and added one final run to Bastardo's ledger by surrendering a double to Scott Schebler, before finally securing the inning's third out.
The Pirates finally got on the board in the bottom half of the inning when Freese parked a two-run homer in the right-field bleachers, but that was as close as they would come. Joey Votto drove in one last run in the next half-inning to provide the Reds' final margin of victory.
Cincinnati collected a total of fifteen hits, as Peraza, Suarez, and Barnhart were responsible for three hits apiece. Garrett, who entered the season as Baseball America's #81 prospect, threw 64 of his 96 pitches for strikes in the course of delivering his second quality start in his second career ML game.
The Pirates will try to turn things around tomorrow afternoon, sending Chad Kuhl out against Eduardo Rodriguez and the Boston Red Sox, in a make-up date that replaces the cancelled game from their season-opening series.