By HAL McCOY
CINCINNATI — Lucas Sims, an emergency plug-in starting pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds Tuesday night, treated the Pittsburgh Pirates like the Toledo Mudhens.
And Derek Dietrich treated them like the Bad News Buccos with three home runs and six RBI. Dietrich and Sims did the heavy lifting as the Reds obliterated the Pirates, 11-6, Tuesday night in Great American Ball Park.
Sims was summoned from Class AAA Louisville for a one-night stand and pitched as if he plans to remain forever.
The 24-year-old right hander, making only his 11th major league start, first for the Reds, shut down the Pirates on three hits and set a career high with nine strikeouts over 7 1/3 innings. It was the longest start for any Reds pitcher this season.
His huge night ended with one out in the eighth when he gave up a grand slam home run to Kevin Newman. It was Newman’s first career home run and it came on Sims’ 100th and last pitch.
All that did was slice Cincinnati’s lead from 10-0 to 10-4 and earn Sims the loudest standing ovation of the season for a Reds pitcher.
“The standing ovation was cool,” he said. “I have to say it is the first time it has happened in my big league career.
“It is just another game to me,” said Sims, a personable and confident young man. “I just want people to know I can go out there and compete. It is one of the few things you can control. Be aggressive and challenge the hitters.
“That’s always my game plan, to get as many outs as fast as I can,” he said. “I want to show that I belong. I definitely feel like I belong.”
His manager, David Bell sniffed a winner when he saw Sims walk into the clubhouse.
“I can’t say enough about what he did,” said Bell. “He was so fun to watch. He came in without an attitude, right when he walked into the building you could tell he thought he was going to do what he did. He dominated for seven innings.
“We knew he had this talent, but to come up and start a major league game in this way, to pitch like that, says a lot about who he is as a competitor,” Bell added. “He was just not afraid.”
And with a whole lot of help from his friends on offense Lucas was the winner. Nine of the Reds’ 11 hits were clubbed for extra bases. The leader of the pack was Pirates-killer Dietrich with his three bolts, all into the right field seats and they were back-to-back-to-back.
Dietrich, who pesters the Pirates with his bat and his posturing, set his career-high with 17 home runs. Seven have come against Pittsburgh. It is long ball or nothing, too, because 12 of Dietrich’s last 17 hits are home runs.
He hit 16 last season with 499 at bats. It took him only 118 at bats to reach 17 this year.
Just before Dietrich began his post-game media scrum, Scooter Gennett walked by and said, “Anybody can hit three homers in a game.” Gennett it four in a game last season, but he quickly added. “I hope he hits five next time.”
Said Dietrich, “I told him (Scooter) if I came up again he’d probably pay security to turn the lights out.”
While muscling up three home runs in three at bats is a stupendous accomplishment, Dietrich was all about what he saw from Sims.
“I was as thrilled for Lucas Sims as I was for myself,” said Dietrich. “To come up and throw like that? He had it all going and it was fun playing behind him. I was just happy to help him win the ballgame.”
Dietrich said his swing is right where he wants it, “Always ready to go to battle and good things happen.”
While Sim received a standing ovation, Dietrich was summoned for a curtain call after his third home run.
“I’ve never felt that, except for Opening Day,” he said. “That is what baseball is all about. It only happened maybe once when I was with Miami. That’s a cool feeling.”
Asked if this was his biggest performance, Dietrich smiled and said, “What do you think? Yeah, it was awesome. Personally? Probably so.”
Dietrich said the clubhouse camaraderie and the fan support are what has lifted him to his current awesomeness.
“I feel great with this group, all these guys in here,” he said. “I’m starting to love each and every one of them. I know it has been only a few months — and we’ll have some differences along the way — but I can’t wait to come to the game and go battle with these guys.
“It’s how comfortable I feel here and the Reds just let me be myself and do what I always knew I was capable of doing when I stepped into the big leagues,” he added. “Just having them believe in me and give me the opportunity. That’s all I needed along the way. It has given me the added power.
In addition to Dietrich’s histrionics of three homers and six RBI, Tucker Barnhart extended his hitting streak to seven games with a single and three RBI.
Dietrich and shortstop Jose Iglesias were both discards from their previous teams, both picked up by the Reds as minor league invitees to spring training camp. Iglesias chipped in heavily Tuesday with a triple, double, walk and two runs scored.
The victory also lifted the Reds to their highest plateau of the season. After failing nine times in attempts to reach three games under .500, the Reds finally accomplished it Tuesday. They are 26-and-29, as close as they’ve been this season to .500.