CINCINNATI -- As many eyes spy what both teams might do before today's non-waiver Trade Deadline, the Reds produced a big offensive display for a third-straight victory in a 15-5 win over the Pirates on Thursday. Leading the way was Brandon Phillips, who hit two home runs and drove in a career-high seven RBIs. For the second time in eight days, Joey Votto reached base five times, while scoring three runs.
"It was a great game," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "To score that much, and have everybody influence the offense, I know that feels good for our hitters."
The run support provided plenty of room to work for freshly called-up starting pitcher David Holmberg, who took Johnny Cueto's rotation spot. In his six innings, Holmberg gave up two earned runs and five hits with three walks and four strikeouts. With two outs in the top of the second inning, Pedro Alvarez hit a solo homer to right-center field. Holmberg also collected his first big league hit with a fifth-inning single.
It was another rough outing for Pirates starter A.J. Burnett, who gave up eight runs (seven earned) and 10 hits over 4 1/3 innings with two walks and four strikeouts. It was the third-straight start with double-digit hits allowed for Burnett. Marlon Byrd made it 3-0 with a three-run homer in the first inning, and it was a 5-1 game after four innings until Cincinnati scored six runs in the fifth. That included Phillips' first three-run homer and a two-run double by Jay Bruce against reliever Deolis Guerra.
"Just had a bad day. Any chance to set the tone early was taken away by Birdman, on a ball down the middle," said Burnett, whose velocity and breaking stuff did improve as the game went along. "It was too late. I needed to do that from the get-go, but I wasn't able to throw anything where I wanted to."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED No. 17 for Byrd: Following one-out hits by Ivan De Jesus Jr. and Votto, it was Byrd who put the Reds in command of the game in the bottom of the first. He hit a 3-1 pitch from Burnett for a three-run homer to right-center field. It was his 17th homer of the season and first since July 20, and Byrd's ball traveled at 103 mph and went 411 feet, according to Statcast™.
"You're talking about dealing with A.J. Burnett," Price said. "He's been tough on everybody. He's been tough on us. We see him a lot in the division. To get that three-run lead, I think, was big."
Burnett puts up a zero: That was in the second inning. Unfortunately for the Pirates, Burnett worked in four other innings and gave up eight runs, though only seven of them were earned. Burnett allowed 32 runs in 18 starts before the All-Star Game -- and has now allowed 19 runs in three starts since, jeopardizing his spot in the rotation.
"I don't think it's a rough patch. I just had a bad day," Burnett said. More >
Run creation by Hamilton: With one out in the bottom of the fourth, Billy Hamilton bunted for a hit and drifted outside the base line to reach safely. He successfully stole second base and third base -- the seventh time this season he's successfully swiped both bases -- and easily scored when Phillips poked a rolling RBI single through the right side. Hamilton is 49-for-56 in stolen-base attempts this season.
Guerra takes a big one: In quite possibly his farewell appearance -- he is a prime candidate to vacate his roster spot when Joakim Soria reports -- Guerra accepted the thankless task of saving the Bucs' bullpen in the wake of Burnett's short start. Guerra stayed on the mound through 64 pitches in 1 1/3 innings, allowing seven hits -- including Phillips' pair of three-run homers.
"I like to go out there and be aggressive. Pitch in on guys, change speeds up and down around zone and get them swinging." -- Holmberg, on his outing. It was his first big league game for the Reds since Sept. 25, 2014. His six innings tied a career high
"I got a call in the middle of the game. Good pitcher with good stuff. A real good acquisition." -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who usually has to use the dugout phone to call for a reliever, on getting a call about getting a reliever, Joakim Soria, acquired in a trade from Detroit
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Phillips is the first player in history to have two homers, four hits, two steals and seven RBIs in a single game since the RBI became an official stat in 1920. More >
Reliever Keyvius Sampson pitched a perfect eighth inning with two strikeouts and became the fifth Reds pitcher to make his Major League debut in 2015. Sampson joined Raisel Iglesias, Michael Lorenzen, Jon Moscot and Josh Smith.
DECKER ON THE HILL
A rare blowout of the Pirates called for a rare move by the club: outfielder Jaff Decker's first career pitching appearance. The lefty was up to the task, getting out of a second-and-third, none-out situation to blank the Reds in the eighth. Decker became the first Pittsburgh position player to pitch since June 18, 2014, when Travis Snider went one inning in an 11-4 loss to the Reds. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: Lefty Jeff Locke takes on the Reds in Friday's second game of the series, and there should be a new arm behind him when he takes the Great American Ball Park mound for the 7:10 p.m. ET tilt. Soria, acquired from Detroit, is expected to land in the Bucs' bullpen by game time.
Reds: Third baseman Todd Frazier will be back in the lineup Friday for the second game of the series after he got a rest on Thursday. Coming off of the worst and shortest start of his career -- 2 1/3 innings and allowing eight earned runs -- Michael Lorenzen will be seeking a turnaround when he takes the mound vs. Pittsburgh.