Through 8 1/2 innings Wednesday night at Great American Ball Park, everything was looking mightily familiar for the Pittsburgh Pirates, and that was just fine with them.
As they had done many times already this year, the Pirates look an early lead and leaned on their airtight pitching to lock up another win. They almost got to the finish line of another 1-0 win, but Jay Bruce’s tying home run off previously dominant closer Jason Grilli led to a 2-1 Reds victory in extra innings.
Brandon Phillips drove in the winning run with a bases-loaded single off Vin Mazzaro in the bottom of the 13th, keeping second-place Cincinnati (44-29) ahead of third-place Pittsburgh (42-30) in the tight National League Central race. The Reds have won the first two games of the ongoing four-game set, which wraps up Thursday afternoon.
The Pirates prevailed 4-0 Tuesday night behind a strong second start of the season from Charlie Morton. Rookie lefthander Jeff Locke picked up the baton Wednesday, tossing seven scoreless innings while allowing just four Reds hits. Locke, who struck out three and walked three, dropped his ERA to 2.01, second best in the NL among qualifying pitchers.
Mark Melancon followed Locke with a smooth eighth inning, earning his 22nd hold of the year by preserving the Pirates’ 1-0 edge. Melancon’s ERA fell to an incredible 0.99 with his 10-pitch outing.
But Grilli, who had been 25 for 25 in converting leads into victories to start the season, saw Bruce tattoo his fastball deep into the right-field bleachers to push the game beyond regulation. Grilli’s save streak was the second-longest in Pirates history; Joel Hanrahan finished 26 in a row in 2011.
The flamethrowing Justin Wilson got the Pirates through the 10th and 11th innings with minimal damage, but Mazzaro allowed back-to-back singles to Derrick Robinson and Shin-Soo Choo to start his second frame of relief. Following an intentional walk to Joey Votto, Phillips poked a ground ball up the middle to win the game.
Bruce had another highlight besides his high-leverage homer, as he stole a solo dinger from Andrew McCutchen in the seventh to keep the Reds down just a single run. McCutchen went 0 for 6 and Neil Walker was hitless in four at-bats.
Reds starter Bronson Arroyo limited the Pirates to a run on six hits through seven innings. Five relievers combined to shut out the Bucs the rest of the way, including a three-strikeout eighth from rookie Tony Cingrani and Sam LeCure’s two effective innings.
The Pirates got their only run of the night when Starling Marte stroked a two-out triple to center field and Russell Martin’s grounder was muffed by Arroyo, allowing Marte to cross the plate. Russell and Travis Snider each hit doubles off Arroyo.