PITTSBURGH (AP) Andrew McCutchen couldn’t help himself. After watching teammate Francisco Cervelli hit a three-run homer that tied the game and chased Cincinnati rookie starter Josh Smith on Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Pirates star center fielder did a spot-on impression of the ever ebullient catcher in the dugout.
Not that Cervelli minded.
”They’re all a bunch of clowns here,” Cervelli said. ”They’re always making fun of me, but I don’t care because I’m another clown.”
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Minutes later McCutchen offered a slightly more serious trot around the bases, blasting a two-run shot off Pedro Villarreal to cap a fourth-inning outburst as the Pirates ended a three-game losing streak with a 7-6 victory.
Smarting from an ugly sweep in Washington over the weekend that included getting no-hit by Max Scherzer, the Pirates took out their frustrations on the Reds with a brief but impressive display. Pittsburgh’s seven-run sprint through the fourth was one more run than they managed in their previous four games combined.
”You lose like we did against the Nationals, you’re pretty amped up,” McCutchen said. ”Somewhat of a slow start, but that’s why you play the whole game.”
Rob Scahill (2-3) earned the win in relief of ineffective starter Jeff Locke. Mark Melancon worked a perfect ninth to pick up his major league-leading 24th save.
Jay Bruce homered and drove in three runs for the Reds. Cincinnati left 12 men on base and went just 4 for 17 with runners in scoring position.
”Usually six (runs) will do it,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. ”We’re in a spot there where we’re bringing in a new kid and Josh struggled a bit with his command, that’ll certainly get better the more experience he gets because he’s a strike-thrower.”
The 27-year-old Smith went an eventful three-plus innings a few hours after being called up from Triple-A Louisville to fill in for Johnny Cueto, who is skipping a start to give his aching elbow a break. Smith worked around five walks in the first three innings before unraveling in the fourth. Pedro Alvarez smacked an RBI double off the wall to get the Pirates going and Cervelli followed with a shot to the Cincinnati bullpen in center to tie the game.
Smith left but Pittsburgh’s outburst continued. McCutchen’s ninth home run of the season off Villarreal (0-2) capped the Pirates’ biggest inning of the year, as a four-run deficit turned into a 7-4 lead.
”We just kept reminding us we didn’t need to be in a hurry,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. ”We wanted to have the best at-bat we could, one pitch at a time. See the pitches you really need to see.”
It also helped erase a shaky start by Locke, who gave up four runs in four innings. Some spotty defense behind him didn’t help, though it could have been worse.
The Reds left seven runners on with Locke on the mound. Scahill wasn’t much better but Pittsburgh’s bullpen managed to slog the rest of the way, retiring the final six batters on strikeouts to win their seventh straight home game.
Pittsburgh leftfielder Starling Marte made a pair of spectacular diving grabs, stretching out to take a hit away from Billy Hamilton in the fifth and again to end seventh when he plucked Todd Frazier’s liner off the ground that kept Hamilton from trotting home with the tying run.
”I had my hands up in the air like `game saver,’ a game changer right there,” McCutchen said.
Reds: Price said Cueto – who is 18-4 with a 2.13 ERA against the Pirates – could have pitched but the team felt its ace would benefit from a few extra days off to give right elbow a little more time to rest. ”He’s not feeling like he has his maximum amount of strength, so we’re just trying to build that up right now,” Price said. ”It just makes sense for us right now.” Cueto’s next scheduled start is Friday against the New York Mets.
Pirates: Top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon is out indefinitely with what general manager Neal Huntington described as lower abdominal discomfort. Taillon, the team’s top pick in the 2010 first-year player draft, is recovering from Tommy John surgery in his right elbow. He was scheduled to start in the Gulf Coast League on Tuesday.
The series continues on Wednesday when Cincinnati’s Mike Leake (4-4, 4.01 ERA) faces Pittsburgh’s Gerrit Cole (11-2, 1.78 ERA). Cole leads the majors in victories and has won each of his last six starts but is 0-2 with a 4.70 ERA in four career starts against the Reds, including a 3-0 loss to Leake on May 6.