PDT Sports Writer
CINCINNATI — Kristopher Negron couldn’t have picked a better time for his first major-league homer. With runners on first and third and two outs in the bottom of the second, Negron unlesahed a bomb to right field on a 1-1 count.
“I knew I hit it out, but I was just so amped up,” he said. I just put my head down and ran around the bases.”
Negron’s homer gave the Cincinnati Reds an early 3-0 lead en route to a 6-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates Sunday afternoon at Great American Ball Park. The win capped a roller coaster week for the Reds, who were able to pick up four and a half games on the first-place Milwaukee Brewers while losing a number of starters to the disabled list.
The Reds’ second inning began with a bloop from Chris Heisey that fell between three Pirates. Hustling on the play, Heisey easily took second while the fielders scrambled for the ball. After Jay Bruce sacrificed him to third and Devin Mesoraco walked, Negron came to the plate with two outs in the inning.
“(Pirates starter Francisco Liriano) threw it a little bit up and over the plate…and I just tried to give it a ride,” Negron said.
Cincinnati still held a 3-1 lead when game was halted with one out in the top of the fourth inning for a 56-minute rain delay. Spectators fled to the concourses and to avoid heavy rains, strong winds and thunder and lightning. The rain couldn’t have come at a better time for Reds’ ace Johnny Cueto, who had walked two straight batters before the delay.
“It was almost as if the rain delay almost came in as a blessing because he was able to come in, cool off a little bit, stay inside, work with (Reds’ pitching coach) Jeff Pico in preparation to go back out,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “We really wanted him, not so much for the chance to win the game but if we could keep him moving we could keep him in the ballgame and give us a chance to not go through the bullpen so early. He did a great job pitching through.”
Cueto would pitch out of trouble in the fifth and sixth inning. He would finish the game with seven strikeouts, three hits and three earned runs.
After taking the ball from Cueto, the Reds bullpen would retire all nine batters it faced. Jumbo Diaz, Jonathon Broxton and Aroldis Chapman would all pitch perfect innings, with Chapman striking out the side.
Price appluaded the effort of Diaz, who hasn’t allowed a run inhis past six appearances.
“I think the biggest, most important thing is that he’s throwing the ball over the plate a lot more often,” Price said. “Sometimes, guys will try and miss the bat and pitch away from contact…and that creates problems.”
Gearing up for Tuessday’s All-Star game, Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier would both have big games. Mesoraco would finish the day going 2-for-2 with two walks and an RBI double, and Frazier would hit his second home run in as many days, a two run shot down the right field line in the sixth inning. The streak couldn’t come at a better time for Frazier, who will compete in Tuesday’s Home Run Derby.
The rest of the Reds will have four days off for the All-Star break. Most will welcome the days off. Not Negron.
“I want to keep going,” he said with a smile.
Alex Hider can be reached at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1931 or on Twitter @PDTSportsWriter
PIRATES 000 111 000 —3 5 1
REDS 030 0120 00x — 6 9 2
PIRATES — Harrison 2-4 (RBI), McCutchen 1-4 (R), Walker 1-4 (2 RBI), Alvarez 1-3 (R)
REDS — Hamilton 2-4 (R), Frazier 1-5 (HR, 2 RBI), Heisey 3-5 (R), Bruce 0-4 (R), Mesoraco 2-2 (2B, RBI), Negron 1-3 (HR, 3 RBI)
W — Cueto (10-6) (6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K)
L — Liriano (1-7) (4 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 6 BB, 4 K)
S — Chapman (21)