By HAL McCOY
It would take a forensic pathologist to dissect what the Cincinnati Reds did on PNC Park Sunday afternoon, other than to desecrate the playing field.
Suffice it to say that starting pitcher Trevor Bauer was awful, the Reds’ defense was abysmal and the offense was dormant until it was too late.
Put it together and it adds up to another defeat to the last place Pittsburgh Pirates, 9-8, Cincinnati’s 10th straight loss in PNC Park. And it was a three-game series sweep by the Pirates.
Bauer survived only three innings and gave up eight runs (seven earned) and eight hits. He and catcher Curt Casali were not only not on the same page, they weren’t in the same book.
Twice with hot-hitting Brian Reynolds at the plate, Casali rolled through the signs three times and Bauer kept shaking him off. Both times Casali went to the mound to see what Bauer had in mind.
Both times Reynolds then ripped hits, a single in the first and a three-run triple in the second.
And everything uncoiled after the Reds scored three runs in top of the first off rookie Pittsburgh starter Dario Agrazal.
The Pirates scored eight unanswered runs – two in the first, three in the second and three in the third.
Agrazal walked the first two batters of the game and both scored. Aristides Aquino singled for a run, Jose Iglesias singled for a run. Curt Casali’s sacrifice fly gave Bauer a 3-0 lead before he threw his first pitch.
Kevin Newman doubled and Brian Reynolds singled to start the bottom of the first, which should have put runners on second and first with no outs. But center fielder Phillip Ervin lobbed the return throw to the infield over everybody in the infield.
That enabled Newman to score from second and Reynolds scampered all the way to third. Josh Bell hit a shallow fly ball to center, but Phillip Ervin air-mailed his throw over the catcher’s head and it was a sacrifice fly, slicing Cincinnati’s lead to 3-2 after one.
The Pirates scored three in the second on a walk, a single, a hit-by-pitch and the three-run triple by Reynolds, pushing the Pirates in front, 5-3.
They added three more in the third. It began with back-to-back doubles by Colin Moran and Jose Osuna for a run. A walk and an infield hit loaded the bases. One run scored when right fielder Aristides couldn’t catch a line drive. He picked up the ball and got a force at second, but a run scored.
The eighth run came on a single to left field by Kevin Newman.
The Reds frittered an opportunity in the third. Aristides Aquino was hit by a pitch and Jose Iglesias dropped a perfect bunt for a hit. That put two on with no outs. Derek Dietrich struck out, extending his hitless spell to 0 for 17. Casali flied to right and Ervin took a called third strike.
The Reds tried chipping away. They scored a run in the fifth on a single by Iglesias and a double by Derek Dietrick that broke the 0 for 17 slump.
Kyle Farmer, fresh off the injured list, pinch-hit in the sixth against relief pitcher Michael Feliz and lined a home run to left field, cutting the deficit to 8-5.
Curt Casali doubled to lead the eighth and with two outs Josh VanMeter cleared the right field bleachers, drowning a home run into the Allegheny River and it was 8-7.
Amir Garrett, though, gave up a big run in the eighth on Kevin Newman’s fourth hit of the game and second stolen base of the game, following by a double by Starlin Marte.
After VanMeter’s two-run, two-out home run in the eighth, Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle brought in his closer, Felipe Vazquez, to get the last out of the inning, a ground ball by Tucker Barnhart.
Eugenio Suarez led the ninth with his 35th home run and it was back to a one-run game, 9-8, Aquino popped to shallow left, Iglesias grounded out to second and pinch-hitter Jose Peraza struck out. And it was another horrendously-played one-run loss. Of their 69 losses, 27 have been by one run.
So the Reds happily flee Pittsburgh and go to Miami, where they face another last place team, the Marlins, for a four-game series. But they carry heavy baggage, reaching the low point of the season with the three-game sweep by the Pirates.