By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — If you want to turn Scooter Gennett into Motorcycle Gennett just rev him up.
And the best way to rev him up is to intentionally walk Joey Votto ahead of him to load the bases.
That’s what the Pittsburgh Pirates did Tuesday night in Great American Ball Park — walked Votto intentionally with one out in the fifth inning to fill the bases.
And Gennett quickly unloaded them. On Pittsburgh pitcher Jameson Taillon’s next pitch Gennett drove a grand slam home run deep into the right field moon deck, turning a one-run lead into a five-run lead, pushing the Cincinnati Reds to a 7-2 victory.
Gennett also could change his name to Grand Slam Gennett because his bases loaded blast Tuesday was the sixth grand slam of his career. And he began the night by driving in the Reds first run with a first-inning double and added a sixth RBI in the seventh with a sacrifice fly.
Asked if it expands his horizons to make a team pay when they walk a batter intentionally to get to him, Gennett smiled and said, “It definitely makes sense why they did it. In my opinion, Joey Votto is the best hitter in the game, so I didn’t take it personally. In that situation, I like getting up there with the bases loaded.”
The big game home runs are a matter of a maturation process for Gennett.
“Earlier in my career I would have tried to be selective and put a good at bat together rather than realize they aren’t going to try to walk me,” said Gennett. “So being aggressive in that situation, in my opinion, is the way to go.”
And bases loaded aggressiveness had paid dividends six times.
“It is just one of those things,” he said. “It is all about timing in baseball and I’ve hit six home runs with the bases loaded and don’t put much into it. As I said, just being aggressive in those situations is the play for me.”
The beneficiary of Gennett’s generosity was Reds starting pitcher Matt Harvey, who masterfully held the Pirates in check until Gennett could produce his grand slam.
Harvey, making his third start for the Reds and first in GABP, held the Pirates to one run and three hits over six innings, with two walks and five strikeouts. He threw 93 pitches, 53 were strikes.
Harvey was in immediate danger in the top of the first when he gave up a single and two walks with one out, loading the bases.
But he coaxed a shallow fly to center from Corey Dickerson, who swung at the first pitcher after two straight walks, and he struck out Colin Moran.
He escaped run damage, but accumulated 30 pitches to record three outs. Then he became economical and used only 63 pitches over his final five innings.
“Being the first home game I think I was a little amped up there,” said Harvey after recording his first win of the season. “I got all out of sorts in the first and that could have gone the wrong way.”
Then came 63 pitches over the next five innings, a little more than 13. If he had thrown 13 in the first inning he might have pitched eight innings, or even nine.
“It was a good step for me, so I’m not going to complain about doing that,” said Harvey. “It was good to get the first one out of the way. There were times this year when I thought I might not ever get another win in the big leagues.
“I sat down in the training room after I came out and thought about how I couldn’t really remember the last time I went six innings and didn’t give up a ton of runs,” he said.
Harvey credited his catcher Tucker Barnhart for his catching acumen and, oh yeah, three hits. And, of course, a deep bow to Gennett.
“I really stuck with Tucker and he called every pitch and I just trusted him and what I could do,” said Harvey. “I was able to execute for the most part. And everything Scooter did, putting up all those runs, getting all those RBI. That definitely let me go out and attack. It made my job pretty easy.”
The Reds and Pirates right fielder Gregory Blanco provided Harvey with a 2-0 lead after one inning.
Tucker Barnhart, batting second for the first time in his major league career, singled to right field. With two outs, Gennett lifted a fly ball to right and Polanco circled the wagons, took the long way home chasing the ball, and it fell for a run-scoring double.
Pittsburgh starter Jameson Taillon flapped his arms in disbelief as he run to back up third base. Then Eugenio Suarez took advantage of the extra out by banging a run-scoring double into the left field corner.
The Pirates put one run on the board in the fourth inning when third baseman Colin Moran, who struck out in the first with the bases loaded, hit a solo home run in the fourth.
It stayed 2-1 until the bottom of the fifth. Jose Peraza banged a one-out single and Barnhart, celebrating his lofty spot in the batting order, doubled for his second hit, putting runners on third and second with one out.
That’s when the Pirates decided to intentionally walk Votto, the 135th time in his career he has been intentionally walked, tying Johnny Bench’s club record. And that’s when Gennett made the Pirates pay dearly. Gennett has 33 RBI, tying Eugenio Suarez for the club lead.
Amir Garrett replaced Harvey for the seventh inning and he gave up a one-out home run to Austin Meadows. When he walked the two hitters he was replaced by David Hernandez.
Hernandez gave up a single to pinch-hitter Sean Rodriguez to fill the bases with one out then struck out Josh Harrison and coaxed an inning-ending ground ball from Gregory Polanco, preserving the 6-2 lead as the Pirates left the bases loaded for the second time.