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Both sides come out swinging but Bucs sweep with 7-5 victory over the Reds

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The teams combined for five long home runs and five ejections after a bench-clearing brawl, but in the end the Pittsburgh Pirates completed a four-game home sweep of the Cincinnati Reds with a hard fought 7-5 victory at PNC Park on Sunday afternoon.

Adam Frazier put the Pirates on the board quickly, taking the first pitch of the bottom of the first over 400 feet deep into the stands in right center for a lead-off home run.

Chris Archer, who threw five shutout innings against the Cardinals on Monday, saw his scoreless streak end in the second when after walking Eugenio Suarez, Derek Dietrich stood at home plate and admired his long fly until it had rolled into the Allegheny River for a 2-1 Reds lead.

The Pirates tied the game in the home half of the second when Melky Cabrera collected the first of his three hits on the day then chugged home on Erik Gonzalez’s liner into right-center on which he was thrown out at third trying to stretch it into a triple.

With one out in the top of the third Yasiel Puig reached on a strange play, ruled an error, where his line drive back to the mound was knocked down by Archer but after scrambling for the ball Archer’s lob toss nearly sailed over first baseman Josh Bell’s head. Puig was quickly erased by the arm of catcher Francisco Cervelli as he tried to steal second, which was very fortunate for the Pirates when three pitches later Scott Schebler drilled homer to the back of the right field seats to give the Reds another lead at 3-2.

The score remained the same when Dietrich stepped to the plate to lead off the fourth and the first pitch from Archer was a fast ball that sailed behind Dietrich’s back. After the game, Archer denied throwing at the batter, saying “I elevated a couple of balls today”, which was evidenced not only by the bad throw to first in an attempt to get Puig an inning earlier but also two fast balls in later innings that sailed over everyone’s heads and struck the backstop on the fly.

Nevertheless, home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg immediately stepped forward to warn Archer but the Reds were already anticipating a situation, with Puig the first to jump the railing and charge the mound as Cincinnati manager David Bell rushed out to argue with Kellogg that Archer should’ve been ejected. Both dugouts and both bullpens quickly gathered around the mound, with yelling and shoving, but it was Puig who was especially animated, being restrained by both Pirates and Reds until he charged after the Pirates 54 year old bench coach Tom Prince, who readied himself for the contact. After several minutes to restore order, manager Bell along with Puig and reliever Amir Garrett of the Reds were ejected from the game, along with Pirates’ relievers Keone kela and Felipe Vazquez.

When play resumed, Archer struck out Dietrich on a slow curve and K’d two more in a scoreless innings. He credited the team’s attitude for the come back that was to come. “The team bonding we did [since spring training], the team dinners...it’s authentic...it really came together today.”

With one out in the home half of the inning, Josh Bell stunned the crowd when he took a 2-1 middle-middle fastball from Anthony DeSclafani and took it back out at 113 mph, landing 474 feet away, after it cleared the green wall behind the bullpens in straight away center field, the fourth longest home run in PNC Park history, tying the score at three apiece. Bell said of the two doubles and a homer the day before, all on the first pitch, and a homer and double in this game, “I’m ready to hit...ready on pitch one.”

But the Bucs weren’t done. After Jung-ho Kang lined out to left, Cabrera roped a double into the right field corner and scored on Jason Martin’s line single to right, putting the Pirates up 4-3.

The Pirates piled on three more runs in the fifth. DeSclafani was gone after he hit Frazier with a pitch and Cervelli dropped a one-out single in front of Matt Kemp in left. David Hernandez promptly poured gasoline on the fire, as Bell doubled into the right-field corner for one and Cabrera singled up the middle for two more, but Cabrera was unable to motor all the way home, instead pulling up at third when Martin lined a double off the Clemente Wall in right.

Despite high pitch counts in the first two innings, Archer was able to complete six innings by the time he hit pitch number 100, allowing only the three runs on the two home runs. Nick Kingham relieved with a 7-2 lead and had an easy seventh, and appeared to do the same in the eighth when he struck out a pair after Kemp’s leadoff single, but Dietrich went deep to right again for his second two-run homer of the game and third home run of the year, all against the Pirates, cutting the lead to 7-5.

With both the inning eight and nine relievers, Kela and Vazquez, tossed during the melee, Pirates’ manager Clint Hurdle turned to Richard Rodriguez to close out the game. Rodriguez had been shaky in the first week of the season, already allowing a pair of home runs, and went to three-ball counts on each of the first two hitters before retiring them. Rodriguez said, “after my first outing, Clint took me aside and put some life back into me...he and [pitching coach Ray] Searage instilled that confidence, that trust in me.”

With two outs Joey Votto, who’s led the National League in on-base percentage each of the last three seasons and for seven of the last nine, stepped to the plate to pinch-hit. “Even though it was Joey Votto, I wasn’t looking at that, I just wanted to get the last out.” And that Rodriguez did, as on an 0-2 pitch he rolled an easy grounder to second baseman Frazier for the final out of the game.

It was noted before the game that Reds’ starter DeSclafani had allowed a .917 OPS to left-handed batters in 2018 against only a .676 mark by right-handers. In today’s game, he faced nine left-handed batters, allowing a hit batsman and five hits, including a double and two home runs, while the right-handed batters managed two hits, a walk and four strikeouts in twelve trips to the plate.

After sending Cincinnati to their eighth consecutive loss, the Pirates 5-3 record puts them second place in their division, behind Milwaukee, in the young season. On Monday they’ll travel to Chicago for the Cubs’ Home Opener at Wrigley Field for a 2:20 pm Eastern start. Jameson Taillon will face left-hander Jon Lester.