By HAL McCOY
After playing an inspiring three-game series in St. Louis against the contending Cardinals, the Cincinnati Reds moved on to Pittsburgh on Labor Day and played as if they were walking a picket line against the non-contending Pirates.
Of course, in fairness, Pittsburgh starter Trevor Williams had more than a little bit to do with his team’s 5-1 victory in gorgeous PNC Park.
Williams entered the game with a 0.83 earned run average since the All-Star break, the best ERA for a starting pitcher in the majors in that span.
And in his previous start he held the St. Louis Cardinals to no runs and three hits over six innings. On Monday against the Reds he pitched 6 2/3 innings and gave up no runs and five hits.
Reds starter Matt Harvey was the victim, as usual, of the home run ball. He gave up three runs and seven hits for his six innings and all three runs scored on a pair of home runs.
He gave up a one-out home run in the first inning to Adam Frazier, who finished the game with four hits. And he gave up a two-run blast in the sixth inning to Gregory Polanco, a launch that nearly knocked down a satellite.
That was Polanco’s career best 23rd home run and Harvey has given up 23 home runs this season.
“Matt was OK,” said manager Jim Riggleman during his post-game media session. “I don’t think he’ll say it was one of his best games. But it was well-enough pitched to win a ball game.”
Harvey concurred and reduced the game’s common denominator to the two home run pitches.
“It was two pitches,” he said. “You throw a bad changeup (to Adam Frazier) and he hits it out. And you leave a fastball down the middle to a power hitter (Gregory Polanco) and you give up two more runs. The numbers don’t go with how the game went. Two pitches definitely cost me.”
The Pirates added two unearned runs in the seventh against Sal Romano. With one out, Kevin Newman broke a 0 for 20 slump with a single. Pinch-hitter Jose Osuna grounded to second baseman Scooter Gennett, an inning-ending double play ball.
But Gennett’s throw to second was high, wide and ugly and rolled into left field, putting runners on third and second. Frazier drove them both home with a single to center and it was 5-0.
The Reds had their one-and-only opportunity against Williams, a 26-year-old right hander, in the first inning.
With one out, Joey Votto checked his swing and dribbled an infield hit up the third base line. Scooter Gennett fouled off eight straight pitches before driving a double up the right center gap.
That put runners on third and second with one out, but Williams caught Eugenio Suarez looking at strike three and Scott Schebler flied to center.
After Gennett’s double, Williams retired 10 straight before he hit Schebler with a pitch with two outs in the fourth. After that the Reds had one single and one walk until they collected a pair of singles in the seventh and Williams was taken down.
“We had a chance in the first inning to put some runs on the board but didn’t,” said Riggleman. “We flattened out after that. Wlliiams kinda found his groove after the first inning. A lot of changeups was what he got us with, kept us off balance. Pretty much Williams as the story of the day.”
Gennett retrieved one of the two runs he gave up with his error with a two-out bases empty home run in the eighth off relief pitcher Kyle Crick, Gennett’s 20th home run.
Reds rookie Blake Trahan made his major league starting debut at shortstop and during his third at bat he dropped a single into center field, his first major league hit.
The last place Reds began the game five games behind the next-to-last place Pirates, hoping to make a run at scrambling out of the cellar. But the defeat dropped them six games behind Pittsburgh and the steady march toward 90-plus losses continued.