Aroldis Chapman jerked his head toward left field and held his breath. Everybody in the Cincinnati Reds dugout held their breath.
Left fielder Chris Heisey probably held his breath, too, as a long drive hit by Pittsburgh’s Clint Barmes headed toward the wall.
Then everybody exhaled and Heisey snagged the ball while colliding with the padded wall, ending a wild game won by the Cincinnati Reds, 6-5, at PNC Park on Tuesday.
The Pirates had two runners on base with two outs when Heisey caught the ball, putting a large smile on closer Chapman’s face as he headed for the dugout.
The real savior on this night, though, was Todd Frazier after the Reds bullpen blew a 5-2 lead in the seventh inning, enabling the Pirates to pull into a 5-5 tie.
Frazier put the New Jersey mash on a 2-and-1 pitch thrown by Pirates closer Jason Grilli to lead off the ninth, a massive blast over the center-field wall, his 16th home run, third most in the National League.
It wasn’t one of Johnny Cueto’s better nights, but he deserved to win it. He didn’t, thanks to the bullpen mess-up by beleaguered Sam LeCure and Logan Ondrusek.
Cueto labored all night and had thrown 100 pitches by the end of the fifth inning. And he pitched the sixth, leaving after 119 pitches. But he gave up only two runs on seven hits with four walks and only two strikeouts. Usually he has the Pirates nibbling out of his right palm, a 15-4 career record and two games this season in which he had given them one run. And he wasn’t awful, a quality start, and his earned-run average only rose from 1.85 to 1.91.
The Reds scored two runs in the seventh for a 5-2 lead and it looked as if Cueto might gain his seventh victory.
It was not to be.
LeCure started the seventh, and something is amiss with the competitive right-hander. He retired the first batter, but LeCure gave up a single to Starling Marte, walked Andrew McCutchen on a full count, threw a wild pitch, gave up a run-scoring single to Ike Davis and a run-scoring single to Russell Martin to make it 5-4.
LeCure, whose velocity is not up to speed, has given up runs in four of his last five appearances.
Manny Parra came in to strike out pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez and Ondrusek replaced Parra. Cincinnati native Josh Harrison, who had four hits, singled to tie it, 5-5 — and Cueto’s win was blowing in the wind.
The game went like this: The Reds scored a run in the first for the fifth straight game. Billy Hamilton started the game with a chopped double over the head of drawn-in third baseman Pedro Alvarez and scored on Joey Votto’s single. Hamilton finished with three hits, two on bunts, stole three bases and scored three runs. To make it a complete night, he threw out McCutchen trying to score from third base on a fly ball.
The Pirates tied it 1-1 and took a 2-1 lead in the third. The Reds tied it 2-2 on Ryan Ludwick’s single in the fourth. It became 3-2, Reds, on Brayan Pena’s fielder’s choice.
Votto, who drove in three runs, singled home two runs in the seventh for the 5-2 lead that the bullpen couldn’t protect.
After the bullpen meltdown and Frazier’s 430-foot blast gave the Reds the 6-5 lead, Chapman came in to save it. And he did. Barely.
With one out, Chapman walked pinch-hitter Chris Stewart on a full count. Harrison singled to left, only the second hit given up by Chapman in his last 10 appearances over 10 innings.
So the Pirates had two on with one out. Chapman struck out Jordy Mercer and that’s when Barmes put a charge into one of Chapman’s fastballs that Heisey chased down.
The victory enabled the Reds to leapfrog the Pirates into third place and to pull within one game of .500. They face former teammate Edinson Volquez today and send nine-game winner Alfredo Simon to the mound.
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