The Pittsburgh Pirates have had its troubles winning the opening game of a series this year and once again struggled against Cincinnati Reds starter Mike Leake in a 4-1 loss Monday night at Great American Ball Park.Although the Pirates (41-29) have consistently won series in the opening three months of the season, they are now 10-14 in the first meeting with an opponent. With the victory, the Reds (43-28) moved 1 1/2 games up on Pittsburgh for second place in the National League Central.
Going into the game, Pirates starter Francisco Liriano had not allowed a home run, however on this night he was touched up twice in no-doubt fashion. Both Zack Cozart (fourth inning) and Todd Frazier (sixth) took Liriano deep and well past the left-field wall.
Sandwiched between the two homers was a run from the Pirates in the top of the sixth. Andrew McCutchen motored all the way from first base to score on a Russell Martin single, tying the game briefly. This was possible since Reds right fielder Jay Bruce was unable to completely stop the ball with a dive.
Liriano’s outing was stellar other than the two homers as he allowed seven base runners while striking out six in six innings. The damage against Liriano was done with two outs in the innings.
Liriano did receive some help from Starling Marte. The left fielder got his first start since this past Wednesday after coming into Sunday’s game as a defensive replacement. With the game still scoreless in the third inning, Marte made a diving catch, saving what likely would have been a run while making up for his lack of offense at the plate.
In the seventh inning, Bryan Morris put together a solid inning that ended with a double play.
The Pirates had an opportunity in the eighth after Sam LeCure surrendered a single, forcing Tony Cingrani to make his first career major league relief appearance. While he walked a hitter, Cingrani got out of it to keep the Reds in front.
Morris came on to pitch a second inning and with one out floated a slider on a full count to Joey Votto. The result was an opposite field home run that just cleared the left-field wall. The next batter Bruce made it back-to-back homers when he deposited a 2-0 pitch into the bleachers.
Aroldis Chapman closed the door on the Pirates in the ninth inning for his 18th save of the season.
The second installment of a four-game series will take place when Charlie Morton (0-0, 3.60 ERA) takes the hill for the Pirates to face Matt Latos (6-0, 3.08).