CINCINNATI (AP) — A surprise in 2023 following a 100-loss season, the Cincinnati Reds and their beleaguered bullpen were dealt a staggering blow by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Pirates overcame a nine-run deficit for the first time since the franchise started play in 1882 and Alfonso Rivas tied a career-high with five RBIs in a 13-12 victory on Saturday night.
“There’s really not a whole lot to say,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Our players have given absolutely every ounce of energy from day one of spring training. That continued tonight, it is going to continue to the last pitch of the season.”
Cincinnati, which dropped 2 1/2 games back for the NL’s last wild-card berth, opened a 9-0 lead with three runs in the first, five in the second and one in the third, then allowed 13 unanswered runs. The Reds attempted to rally but stranded the potential tying run at third base in the ninth.
“This time of the year, everybody is battling some stuff, but it’s meaningful baseball,” Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson said. “Everybody knows that. They put some good at-bats together and had stuff go their way. It is what it is.”
The Reds, who have lost four straight, squandered a nine-run lead for the first time since a 10-9 defeat at Milwaukee on April 28, 2004. This was the biggest blown lead in the major leagues this season, topping Seattle’s 7-0 advantage in a 14-9 loss at the Chicago Cubs on April 11.
Pittsburgh, which entered the National League as Allegheny City from 1882-90, had overcome eight-run deficits four times, the last when the Pirates trailed Houston 8-0 in the second inning of an 11-8 win on July 15, 1994.
Reds rookie Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Tyler Stephenson and TJ Friedl all homered off Bailey Falter, who allowed eight runs and nine hits in two innings. Friedl hit a drive into the right-field corner that Joshua Palacios couldn’t come up with and wound up with the Reds’ first inside-the-park homer since Jay Bruce at the New York Mets on June 15, 2012.
Spencer Steer’s RBI double off Kyle Nicolas boosted the lead to 9-0 in the third.
“It was just, we’re going to chip away,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “We wanted to get into their bullpen and use as many arms as possible. We just kept chipping, kept having good at-bats.”
Held hitless for three innings, Pittsburgh started its comeback on Rivas’ RBI single in the fourth off against Connor Phillips. Ji Hwan Bae and Palacios had run-scoring singles in a five-run sixth and Bryan Reynolds hit a three-run homer against Alex Young.
“It’s funny because (Ke’Bryan) Hayes was standing right next to me and he goes, ‘If he hits a homer here, this is going to get real,’” Shelton said. “He hit a homer, and it got real.”
Rivas greeted Lucas Sims with a three-run double in the seventh that tied the score 9-9, and the Pirates opened a 13-9 lead in the eighth against Reds closer Alexis Díaz (9-6) when Jack Suwinski and Rivas hit run-scoring singles and Bae followed with a two-run double. Right fielder Stuart Fairchild saved a run when he threw out Hayes at the plate trying to score from second on Jared Triolo’s single.
Nick Martini hit into a run-scoring forceout in the eighth and Encarnacion-Strand followed with an RBI single against Colin Selby. With two on, Bae made a diving backhand stop on Stephenson’s grounder, stepped on second and threw to first for an inning-ending double play.
On a night each team had 16 hits, José Hernández (1-1) got the final out of the seventh in his first major league win.
Pinch-hitter Joey Votto singled off rookie Carmen Mlodzinski leading off the ninth on a ball that took a bad hop over Bae, Friedl doubled and pinch-hitter Jake Fraley hit an RBI groundout that cut the Reds’ deficit to one.
Rookie Elly De La Cruz struck out on an inside sweeper in an 11-pitch at-bat, and India flied out to center.
Cincinnati’s bullpen has an 8.33 ERA in the last three games, allowing 34 hits, 25 earned runs, six homers and 14 walks in 27 innings.
“It is a fair question,” Bell said, when asked if his bullpen is being overused. “I’ll let you pick that apart. Everybody is tired. I’m talking about all the teams.”
Reds: SS Matt McLain (right oblique strain) went 1 for 4 as he began a rehab assignment at Triple-A Louisville. He was expected to play two games, then rejoin the Reds on Tuesday. … RHP Tejay Antone (right elbow tendinitis) is unlikely to pitch again this season. … OF Harrison Bader (sports hernia) will have season-ending hernia surgery.
Left-hander Brandon Williamson (4-4, 4.47) starts for the Reds in the series finale Sunday. The Pirates counter with righty Quinn Priester (3-2, 8.61).
This story has been corrected to show that Alfonso Rivas, not Luis Rivas, had 5 RBIs for the Pirates, and that their starter’s last name is Bailey Falter, not Bailey Fatter.
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