By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — For two years the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates have used each other as carnival midway kewpie dolls.
And both teams score frequent and direct hits. There were six batsman hit with pitches Wednesday night in Great American Ball Park during a 5-4 Pirates win, another bullpen production-giveaway by the Reds.
Four Pirates were hit and two Reds were hit and when Reds relief pitcher Ross Ohlendorf hit David Freese in the ninth inning umpire Jeff Kellogg had seen enough and ejected Ohlendorf and Reds manager Bryan Price.
That brings the total over the last two seasons to 29 batsman plunked by pitches and the tally is 15 Pirates hit, 14 Reds hit.
THE AMAZING THING about the entire situation is that the two teams have not come to blows and hardly ever scream or raise their voices about it. There are some stares and glares and some slow walks to first base, but that’s about it.
Either both teams are too nice or both teams are cowards of the county. A lot of the HBP’s are off-speed pitches and when a pitcher wants to drill a hitter he uses a fastball.
Hit batsmen and home runs were what it was all about as the Reds finished a nine-game homestead with a 4-5 record.
“I noticed the balls were slick tonight, probably from the hot, humid air,” said Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart. “There was no intention to hit anybody. We hit them with breaking pitches. One was a slider and a couple were split-fingers. We weren’t trying to hit anybody.”
THE PIRATES COLLECTED only three hits off Reds starter Alfredo Simon, all three solo home runs by Andrew McCutchen, David Freese and Jung Ho Kang.
At the end of eight they had only four hits, all four home runs, as Cincinnati-native Josh Harrison homered in the eighth off Tony Cingrani to tie the game, 4-4, and slap another blown save onto the Reds bullpen.
Ohlendorf arrived in the ninth and became the loser when he gave up a run that didn’t score on a home run. Kang reached second on an infield hit and shortstop Zack Cozart’s throwing error. Kang was bunted to second and scored on Jordy Mercer’s bloop hit to short right field, his first RBI since April 27.
Asked about the slick baseballs, Ohlendorf said, “This was the first game my slider has not been very good. I think it felt different coming out and the slick balls could explain. I did notice there was something on my slider that made it slip. I didn’t notice anything on my fastballs.”
PRICE WAS MORE dumbfounded than mystified by the strange occurrences on this night.
“It was weird tonight,” said Price. “I make marks (on his scorecard) on hard-hit balls. We only had a small handful, as did they. But theirs went out of the ballpark. Sometimes that’s what happens in this ballpark, but it certainly wasn’t the ballpark. We’re a better pitching staff than this.”
One hit batsman helped the Reds score two runs in the fourth inning when Pittsburgh starter Juan Nicosia plunked Brandon Phillips in apparent retaliation for Simon low-bridging Francisco Cervelli and then hitting Starling Marte, both unintentional and both with errant breaking pitches.
After Nicosia hit Phillips, Jay Bruce drove a two-run home run the opposite way into the left field corner that gave the Reds a 3-1 lead at the time.
ON THE NOW-COMPLETED nine-game homestead 36 baseballs were dispatched over the walls of Great American Smallpark, 18 by the Reds and 18 by the enemy, the most ever in GABP for a nine-game series.
After the Pirates took a 5-4 lead in the top of the ninth, Bruce led the bottom of the ninth with a single off Pittsburgh closer Mark Melancon. Eugenio Suarez and Adam Duvall both flied to right and that brought up pinch-hitter Joey Votto, who took his first day off of the year — until the ninth.
Votto swung at a 3-and-0 pitch and missed. He swung at a 3-and-1 pitch and missed. He fouled off a 3-and-2 pitch then walked, putting the tying run on second and he was the winning run.
Tucker Barnhart struck out on four pithes. Game over.
“Don’t we play the same game almost every night?” said Price. “We either win by a run or lose by a run. It is like we play the same game — two different versions but they’re all pretty close to one another. One we win, the next one we lose.”