By HAL McCOY
The Cincinnati Reds showed some fight Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh’s PNC Park but in the end they suffered another technical knockout.
They lost for the eighth straight time, this time by 7-5, concluding a four-game sweep by the Pirates, the first time that has happened to the Reds in Pittsburgh since 1969, back when the Pirates played in Forbes Field.
The Reds didn’t go down without a fight, a typical baseball scuffle, a lot of GMA (general milling around).
It all began in the second inning when Cincinnati’s Derek Dietrich hit a home run into the next time zone, a majestic wallop that cleared the right field stands, crash landed on a concrete sidewalk and one-hopped into the Allegheny River. It was his first career hit for Dietrich against Chris Archer, 0 for 4 with four strikeouts.
The problem was that Dietrich celebrated overtly. He stood at home plate, posing and admiring what he had just done. And rightfully so, the Pirates took exception and umbrage.
Why should a guy show up a pitcher, in this case Archer, when the Reds had lost seven straight games. When Dietrich crossed home plate, Pittsburgh catcher Francisco Cervelli said something to him, perhaps a warning.
When Dietrich came to bat leading off the fourth, Archer’s first pitch, a 94 miles an hour fastball, whizzed behind Dietrich’s posterior.
Home plate umpire Jeff Kellogg promptly issued a warning to both teams, meaning the Reds could not retaliate or manager David Bell and the pitcher would be ejected.
Bell took exception to Archer throwing at Dietrich and charged home plate. Soon the dugouts emptied and it seemed there would be peace. Joey Votto was holding back Yasiel Puig, but ‘The Wild Horse’ would not be restrained. That ignited the skirmish.
In the end, Bell, Puig and pitcher Amir Garrett were ejected along with Pittsburgh relief pitchers Keone Kela and closer Felipe Vazquez.
Dietrich’s home run gave the Reds a 2-1 lead, but Reds’ starter Anthony DeSclafani was not up to protecting that or a 3-2 lead.
The Pirates scored three runs in the fifth to take a 7-3 lead and in the process knocked DeSclafani out of the box. In 4 1/3 innings DeSclafani gave up six runs, seven hits, walked one and struck out five. And he gave up two home runs.
After his home run, Dietrich struck out twice and then hit another cross county home run in the eighth, a two-run shot that also landed on one-hop into the Allegheny, giving him four RBI, and cutting the Pittsburgh lead to 7-5, where it stayed.
As far as Dietrich’s two home runs traveled, his wasn’t the longest.
The Reds had difficulty retiring Pittsburgh first baseman Josh Bell over the four games — three doubles and two home runs.
The home run he hit in the fourth inning to tie the game, 3-3, cleared the tall black batter’s eye in center field and splashed into the river, 473 feet from home plate, 40 feet farther than any home run of his career.
And it was Bell’s two-run double in the fifth against relief pitcher David Hernandez that gave the Pirates the 5-3 lead that they protected.
Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle was strapped when Keone Kela and Felipe Vazques were ejected after the fourth inning brouhaha. Kela is his eighth-inning pitcher and Vazquez is his closer.
So when the ninth inning arrived and Pittsburgh led by two Hurdle sent Richard Rodriguez to guard the lead. Rodriguez had zero major league saves.
He went to 3-and-0 on pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer and came back to get him on a full count ground ball. He went to 3-and-1 on Jose Iglesias before Iglesias flied to left field. Pinch-hitter Joey Votto grounded meekly to second on a 0-and-2 count to end the game and continue the Cincinnati misery.
Puig probably will be fined and there is a possibility of a suspension for reacting vehemently to some off-color words aimed his way by the Pirates.
After getting shut out three straight games and wasting outstanding pitching, the Reds scored five in each of the last two games, but shoddy pitching did them in.
In addition to Dietrich’s two home runs, Scott Schebler had two hits, but the rest of the Reds had only three hits and the team batting average is way below the Mendoza line at .179.
The positive? The Reds’ next three games at home, beginning Tuesday in Great American Ball Park, are against the woebegotten Miami Marlins.