McCoy: Bullpen blows lead in 9th, Reds slip in tie for last place

It was a wild and wooly argument for last place in the National League Central on Friday night in PNC Park, a struggle to the bitter end between the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

And the Reds won the argument. . .for last place.

No, they didn’t win the game. They lost, 5-4, on another bullpen blow-up, a walk-off bases-loaded hit by Michael Chavis off Ross Detwiler in the ninth inning.

So, in this weekend’s Battle for the Bottom series, the Reds dropped into a tie for last place with the Pirates.

The Reds jumped to a quick 3-0 lead with some outstanding pitching by rookie Graham Ashcraft and home runs by Nick Senzel and T.J. Friedl.

Ashcraft fooled and frustrated the Pirates over 6 2/3 innings before running into a bevy of singles in the seventh.

The Reds grabbed a 2-0 lead in the second against Pittsburgh starter Bryse Wilson.

Mike Moustakas, fresh off the injured list, led off the second with a single to center. Senzel, who missed the entire three-game series earlier this week against the Philadelphia Phillies, swung at the first pitch he saw and lined it into the left-field seats, his fourth home run.

Friedl, a native of nearby Sewickley, Pa., started in left field in front of family and friends in the stands, made it 3-0 in the fifth with a long home run inside the right-field foul pole.

Then came Pittsburgh’s comeback.

The Pirates broke through for a run in the sixth on a pair of singles by Keven Newman and Ben Gamel. With two outs, Ashcraft unleashed a wild pitch and Newman scored.

Pittsburgh tied it and chased Ashcraft in the seventh with two runs on four singles.

It began with an infield single by Greg Allen and a single by Bligh Madris, who was 2 for 48 at the time.

With one out, Newman lofted a sacrifice fly to center and Reynolds singled. Alexis Diaz replaced Ashcraft and Gamel swung at his first pitch for a game-tying single, his third hit.

The Reds recaptured the lead in the eighth inning on another in the long line of clutch hits by Kyle Farmer.

Michael Papierski reached on an error and Jonathan India dropped a two-out single into right field. The Pirates brought Wil Crowe to the mound, and he slipped two quick strikes past Farmer.

On the third pitch, a wide one outside the strike zone, Farmer reached out and poked a run-scoring single to right to give the Reds a 4-3 lead.

Reiver Sanmartin pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and Joel Kuhnel was offered the chance for his second career save in the ninth, facing eight, nine and one in the batting order.

He was not up to the task.

He gave up a two-strike bloop single to Madris, hitting .172. Pinch-hitter Tucupita Marcano sacrifice bunted Madris to second, the potential tying run.

That forced Kuhnel to face Pittsburgh’s hottest hitter, Newman, and he ripped a game-tying double to left center.

Manager David Bell trudged to the mound to replace Kuhnel with Ross Detwiler to face ever-dangeous Bryan Reynolds. He was wisely walked intentionally … well, it looked wise at the time.

That it up to Gamel, he of three hits. Detwiler hit Gamel on a 3-and-2 pitch to fill the bases.

Chavis ended it with a line drive to left field, a 5-4 walk-off win.

Meanwhile, first baseman Joey Votto underwent shoulder surgery Friday, a repair of his rotator cuff by Dr. Tim Kremchek at the Beacon Orthopedic medical facilities in Cincinnati.

“Joey this morning had successful surgery to repair his left rotator cuff and biceps,” said Reds general manager Nick Krall. “The surgery was a little more than expected.

“The injury definitely limited the use of his left shoulder and affected his performance, but we expect he will be able to participate in spring training and be ready for 2023.”

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