Pirates Miss Chance to Gain Ground
CINCINNATI – Zack Cozart and Todd Frazier hit upper-deck homers off left-hander Francisco Liriano, and the Cincinnati Reds moved a season-high 15 games over .500 by beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-1 on Monday night.
The Reds (43-28) hit four solo homers in all, extending their best start since 1995, the last time they won a playoff series.
Cozart connected in the fourth and Frazier in the sixth off Liriano (5-3), who hadn’t allowed a homer in his seven previous starts. He opened the season on the disabled list, recovering from a broken right arm last December.
Joey Votto and Jay Bruce connected in the eighth inning off Bryan Morris. Bruce has three homers during a five-game hitting streak.
Mike Leake (7-3) extended the best stretch of his four-year career, giving up six hits – including Russell Martin’s RBI double – in seven innings. Leake got 13 outs off ground balls and fanned three.
The right-hander is 5-1 in his last seven starts with a 1.15 earned run average.
Tony Cingrani made his first relief appearance this season and pitched out of a two-on threat in the eighth, fanning Pedro Alvarez to keep the score 2-1. Cingrani joined the rotation when Johnny Cueto went on the disabled list, and the Reds kept him around with Cueto back so they’d have another left-hander in their depleted bullpen.
Aroldis Chapman pitched the ninth for his 18th save in 20 chances, walking one and fanning two.
The Ohio River rivals have occupied the second and third spots in the NL Central most of the season, staying right behind the torrid Cardinals. The Pirates have gone 4-2 against the Reds at PNC Park, where they’ve won 25 games overall, tied with Cincinnati for most home wins in the majors.
It’s their first visit of the season to Cincinnati. The Pirates went only 3-6 at Great American Ball Park last season, unable to take advantage of its hitter-friendly dimensions.
Liriano gave up Cozart’s seventh homer in the fourth inning, extending the shortstop’s hitting streak to seven games. Frazier hit his ninth homer in the sixth inning for a 2-1 lead, a drive that also landed in the upper deck in left field and was estimated at 443 feet.
Several nice defensive plays also helped to keep it close.
Starling Marte made a diving, backhand catch of Brandon Phillips’ slicing line drive to left field in the third inning, forcing the Reds to strand a runner at second base. Cozart turned a couple of tough-hop grounders into outs, preventing the Pirates from threatening in the early innings.