When Chapman's away, Hoover gets save

Reds righty earns first since May 2013; Mattheus, Parra handle eighth-inning role

When Chapman's away, Hoover gets save

PITTSBURGH -- Because Aroldis Chapman was on paternity leave Wednesday, Reds reliever J.J. Hoover got the opportunity to carry his recent eighth-inning success into the ninth.

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for #ASGWorthy players

Hoover pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth to earn the save in the Reds' 5-2 victory over the Pirates.

"I'm always looking to pitch," Hoover said. "I'm kind of handling the eighth-inning role. If I'm getting the chance to pitch, it means we're winning. That's a good thing."

Since Hoover had closer's duty, his job setting up in the eighth was handled by Ryan Mattheus and Manny Parra. Mattheus walked leadoff batter Andrew McCutchen, but struck out Neil Walker and got  Sean Rodriguez to ground out. Parra handled the lefty-on-lefty matchup by striking out Pedro Alvarez.

Hoover opened the ninth by getting Jordy Mercer to line out to a perfectly positioned Joey Votto at first base.

"The first out is so important. It kind of will kill any of the momentum they have brewing in the dugout," Hoover said.

Hoover struck out the final two batters -- Chris Stewart and Jung Ho Kang -- for his first save since May 16, 2013, vs. the Marlins. Chapman, who is expected to return Thursday, had recorded each of the previous 24 saves for Cincinnati since Jonathan Broxton last notched one for the club on Aug. 24, 2014.

Had Kang reached, the Pirates would have had their dangerous top of the order up.

"I didn't want to see them get that chance to turn over the lineup, and he prevented that completely," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "And that played a big role in keeping the fans out of the ninth inning and keeping the Pirates out of thinking they're going to roll us there in the ninth."

Coming off a 1-10 season with a 4.88 ERA in 2014, Hoover has a 1.39 ERA in a team-high 33 appearances this season. Moved into the eighth-inning role last month, he has not allowed a run in any of his last 14 appearances and 13 1/3 innings.

Hoover also got to close a game in his hometown. He was born and raised in Pittsburgh.

"I always enjoy pitching here because my family and friends are in attendance. It's just fun to play here," Hoover said.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.