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Reds 2, Pirates 7 - Reds just miss plundering the Pirates, again

2 outta 3 ain't bad, but the way this one was lost was tough (if not predictable).

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Joe Nuxhall Memorial Honorary Star of the Game

AJ Burnett has been pitching in the Major Leagues since 1999. 1999! He announced at the beginning of this year (after getting out of the situation he was in in Philadelphia), that this would be a wrap for his baseball days, and all he's done this year is be dominant, as if he were still as young and spry as he was in 1999. Coming into the game, he sported a National League best 1.45 ERA and 263 ERA+, and he did little in this game to change that, pitching 7 innings and allowing only 2 Red runs, striking out 4 and walking 2 on 85 pitches. The outing matched his longest of the young season, and he would've come out for more had the Pirates not blown the game open off of Kevin Gregg in the bottom of the 7th. He's in for some regression in subsequent starts, but for whatever reason I've always liked AJ Burnett, so go ahead and gitcha' a trophy, AJ.

Honorable mentions are due to Marlon Byrd, who went 2-3 with a triple, a walk, and a run scored; Todd Frazier, who went 2-3 with a HR, a HBP, and as far as I know, the League's HR title thus far; Brayan Peña, who went 2-4 with a lot of seriously smart hitting while keeping up a great start to a year; and Anthony DeSclafani, who didn't have anything close to his best stuff today, and walked too many (again) but managed to keep his head about him and mitigate the damage. Good look, Rook.

Key Plays

  • AJ Burnett sat the Reds down in short order in the top of the 1st, and the Pirates bats went to work. Gregory Polanco knocked a double down the right field line off Anthony DeSclafani and Neil Walker knocked him home on a grounder up the middle. Polanco actually blew right through the stop sign his third base coach was putting out there for him, and should've been dead to rights at home plate. Unfortunately, Billy Hamilton's throw was woefully off line, allowing Polanco to score easily. Walker immediately stole second, and the rattled rookie promptly walked former MVP Andrew McCutchen. Starling Marte hit a long, loud fly ball to deep left center, allowing Walker to tag and go to third. Pedro Alvarez hit a weak, high bouncer to first base, one that Walker thought would be enough to get him in. He was wrong, got caught in the run down and tagged out trying to retreat to third. McCutchen stole third base, but Josh Harrison hit a slow grounder to Todd Frazier who made the quick pick and throw to a laid out Joey Votto for out number three, and the Reds escaped with minimal damage taken. Pirates lead 1-0.
  • Brayan Peña hit an infield single to the left side against a big shift, and beat the throw easily in the top of the 3rd. He's slow, so this is of note. I enjoyed watching it a lot more than I should have, probably.
  • SOUND THE HORN: Marlon Byrd walked to lead off the top of the 4th inning, his fourth of the season! The good times seemed to be coming to an abrupt end, as Joey Votto erased him on a double play just a few pitches later. Fortunately for the Reds, Frazier recorded his second hit of the night. This one was a round-tripper, however, tying the game at 1 all. BP hit a single, and then stole second. Burnett then walked Jay Bruce, but Kris Negron tapped one back to the mound with runners at first and second to end the inning.
  • Jordy Mercer smacked a line drive into left center with one out in the bottom of the 4th, followed by Chris Stewart hitting one into left. Burnett laid down a really nice bunt to advance the runners to 2nd and 3rd with 2 out, but DeSclafani got out of the mini-jam by inducing a pop-out to Polanco to end the inning.
  • Walker lead off the bottom of the 5th with a single, and McCutchen smoked one pasted a diving Frazier that ricocheted into the wall on the foul side of third base, allowing Walker to go to third and McCutchen to cruise into second. Marte got behind in the count 0-2 before smacking a sacrifice fly into right field, scoring Walker easily this time. Alvarez pounded one into center that went over the head of the jumping Billy Hamilton, bouncing off the top of the wall. McCutchen scored, Alvarez basically walked to second. He started the home run trot a little prematurely. DeSclafani struck out Harrison and then got Mercer to ground out Negron, but the Pirates made a dent and lead 3-1 at the end of 5.
  • Byrd sliced one into left field past a diving Marte to lead off the top of the 6th. The dive was not such a good idea, however, and the ball went all the way to the wall, and Byrd went all the way into third base standing up. Joey scored him on a ground out to the first base side, but I can imagine that Joey wasn't particularly happy with the swing. He didn't get ejected, however. Frazier grounded out sharply to third base, and BP lined out to right field, and the inning ended as quickly as it started. Reds knocking on the door, down 3-2.
  • In the top of the 7th, Negron reached with 1 out, and Peña notched his second single of the night, good enough into center to send Negron to third base. Skip Schumaker pinch hit for JJ Hoover, because of course he did, and struck out on 3 pitches. Hamilton hit a grounder up the first base line that got past Alvarez, right into the waiting glove of Walker, who realized he had no shot at Hamilton. Fortunately for him, Peña was the runner at first base, and couldn't make it to second in time before Walker tossed to Mercer for the third out of the inning.
  • Kevin Gregg came into the game in the bottom of the 7th, to face the 2-3-4 hitters in this Pirate lineup, because of course he did. He just about got Walker out, but Walker worked 9 pitches for a walk to reach base for the 4th time in the game. McCutchen entered his AB 4-5 against Gregg. He got his 5th, obviously. Marte entered his AB 2-3 against Gregg. He got his 3rd, obviously, scoring Walker from second base. He struck out Alvarez, and had Harrison in a 0-2 corner... and then walked him to load the bases with one out. Mercer mercifully struck out before Stewart roped a 2 out single to shallow left center to score 2 more. Gregg was yanked after that, leading the way for Carlos Contreras to come in and not be as bad as Gregg predictably was. He got the final out out of the inning. Pirates lead 6-2.
  • Jared Hughes came in to pitch for the Pirates and nearly got maimed by Marlon Byrd. Hughes managed to get his glove (or wrist, I'm not really sure) up to protect himself from a come-backer by Byrd, but then really had no idea where the ball was (I don't blame him, that was terrifying), and Byrd reached on a single. Votto came to the plate to a chorus of boos, and struck out to a chorus of cheers. Frazier saw some pitches before getting hit by a 2-2 pitch, causing Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle to bring in Tony Watson. BP came to the plate and promptly flied out to left, and Watson got Bruce to strike out to end the inning.
  • Things happened after that, Contreras walked Polanco, who stole second after a Walker fly out, but then Cutch batted him in. It didn't really matter, but I wanted you to know. We're in this together. Pirates lead 7-2 after 8.
  • Negron got a hit, which is good to see, because he's been less than great, but Peña finally had a bad AB, erasing him with a double play. Guess what? Your starting catcher made an appearance, and damn near put a meaningless run on the board. But he didn't, flying out to the wall. Game over, Pirate win 7-2.

Tony Graphanino

Source: FanGraphs

Other Notes
  • The IsBat Phone is ringing; oh, it's Wick, he'd like me to remind you that Yasmani Grandal went 4-4 with 2 Vottos, 2 three run wingdings, and 8 RBIs today for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
  • Devin Mesoraco can't squat, which wouldn't be a big deal if he wasn't supposed to be the starting catcher for your favorite team. He can still hit though. Or so I'm told, I haven't actually seen him get a hit for a while.
  • JJ Hoover entered the game on April 21st against Milwaukee in "The Grand Slam Game" and lasted 0.1 IP, giving up 3 BB and 4 ER in 30 pitches. In all other appearances? 10.1 IP, 1 ER, 9 K and 4 BB. It seems like 2014 could be far in his rear-view mirror.
  • Can we put Kevin Gregg in our rear-view mirror? Seriously. This guy has no business being on a major league roster. Put him, and us, out of our misery, Walt. I really don't know (or care) what the number actually is, or what the stats are, but I'm going to go ahead and put a negative-infinity WAR on Kevin Gregg. He's the relief pitcher you put in when you're conceding the game, not when it's a 1 run game in the 7th inning.
  • I'm ready to put Kevin Gregg and his Rec Specs into a cannon and fire it into outer space, if you can't tell.
  • PNC Park booed Joey A LOT, presumably for getting thrown out of the game yesterday. Which was hilarious to me, as he didn't do anything to any Pirates other than say a few words to Garrett Cole. But, this is the same group that thinks "CUE-TO. CUE-TO." worked, so, do your thing, PNC Park.
  • The Reds will go back to Chicago but for something different, the SOUTH SIDE, facing off in an interleague battle with the White Sox at 8:10 EST.
  • I bring up this tune at least once a year, and I can't believe I'm already using it as a 'cap tune, but here it is, the point of the front page title.