McCoy: Reds pound Pirates in series opener

The Cincinnati Reds did what they needed to do Monday night in Pittsburgh’s PNC Park.

Facing a weak-rostered team that is injury-riddled, the Reds pressed the accelerator to the floor and ran roughshed over the Pittsburgh Pirates, 14-1, in the opener of a three-game series.

Against a line-up sprinkled with players wearing uniform numbers 52, 58, 60, 68 and 70, the Reds won for the eighth straight time over the last-place Pirates, outscoring them 61-15 in the process.

The Big Bopper on this night was center fielder Tyler Naquin, producer of four RBI, including a three-run home run. Naquin, who is not a regular starter, leads the Reds with 24 RBI.

And Shogo Akiyama is off the injured list and ready to play, but Naquin’s charcoal-hot bat is keeping Akiyama on the bench.

“It is fun to see a talented player get an opportunity and do what he is doing with it,” said manager David Bell. “He’s a good player, a really good player. He is a presence in the order, a dangerous bat. He is just a good all-around player and do a lot of things to help you win.”

With a glut of outfielders even before spring training, Naquin wasn’t on anybody’s list to be the contributor he has been. And he appreciates the opportunity.

“I can’t say enough about all this, it has been a lot of fun,” said Naquin. “Just being able to come over here and do my thing. It’s a good group here, from staff, from top to bottom. It makes this job very enjoyable.”

And no matter whether he plays center field or second base, as long as he is leading off, Nick Senzel is a force. He had two hits and drove in three runs.

“He is healthy and playing regularly and getting more comfortable,” said Bell. “We know he can play. He is having fun play some outfield and some infield and using his strengths as a baseball player.”

Eugenio Suarez began the night’s slug party with a solo home run in the second inning. What was startling about that home run was that it came with two strikes on Suarez. At the time, he was 1 for 70 this season when he had two strikes on him.

Pittsburgh catcher Jacob Stallings tied it in the bottom of the second with a home run, but the Reds obliterated Pirates starter Mitch Keller in the fourth with six runs.

Those runs came without benefit of a home run. They came on four singles, two doubles and two walks. Tucker Barnhart doubled home two runs and Senzel singled home two runs.

The beneficiary of the run rampage was Cincinnati starter Tyler Mahle, who was not at his best. He barely survived the five innings necessary to qualify for a win.

He pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up the home run and four hits, but his pitch-count mounted via four walks. He was lifted with one out in the sixth after his 96th pitch.

But he was credited with the victory, lifting his record to 2-1. His counterpart, Keller, pitched 3 1/3 innings and he gave up seven runs and seven hits and watched his earned run average expand to 7.81 and his record dip to 2-3.

The Reds raked Pittsburgh pitching for 15 hits, two each by Jesse Winker, Mike Moustakas, Barnhart (two doubles), Kyle Farmer, Senzel and Naquin.

For his tenure with the Reds, Barnhart has been known as a defensive catcher, as two Gold Gloves indicated. But he has struggled at the plate. And last season was the nadir, causing him to work out a three or four times a week for two to three hours with a hitting instructor. The results this year are self-evident.

“I believe I’m a good hitter I know I’m a good hitter,” he said. “I always felt there was more hitting in the tank. There’s a good hitter in there.

Mix in eight walks issued by Pirates pitchers and the Reds going 10 for 20 with runners in scoring position and it all added up to a fun and raucous night for the Reds in PNC Park.

About the Author