CINCINNATI -- Down three runs on a cold, wet night at Great American Ball Park, Starling Marte picked a good time to hit his first career grand slam -- and the Pirates' first home run of the year. Marte launched a game-winning grand slam to left field and sent the Pirates to a 6-5 win over the Reds, handing Cincinnati its first loss and keeping Pittsburgh undefeated.
Pittsburgh entered the eighth inning 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The Bucs had stranded 11 runners and made enough mistakes on defense to let the Reds to build up a three-run lead. Then Ross Ohlendorf hit John Jaso with a pitch and walked Andrew McCutchen. David Freese loaded the bases with an infield single.
That brought up Marte, who crushed a 1-0 slider from J.J. Hoover, who replaced Ohlendorf, into the left-field stands.
"We're not trying to hit home runs; we're just trying to get on base," Marte said. "But tonight, being on the losing end, we needed that big hit. I'm just glad it was me."
Brandon Phillips helped give Cincinnati a lead, homering and driving in two runs in his return to the lineup after missing two games with a stomach virus. Phillips returned to the cleanup spot Friday night and immediately greeted Pirates starter Francisco Liriano with a solo home run on the first pitch he saw. Phillips drove in another run in the third inning on a sacrifice fly to center field. Battling his command and frequently working out of trouble, Liriano allowed three runs on five hits and four walks over five innings.
That was nearly enough for the Reds to escape with their fourth straight win to open the season. Instead, Marte's blast pushed the Pirates to 4-0 for the first time since the start of the 2003 season.
"We felt like as long as we were in shouting reach, it's a ballpark that's conducive to playing all 27 outs," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "Anything can happen here. ... The big inning played out for us."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Frankie at the bat: After falling behind 2-0 in the first inning, Liriano immediately cut the Pirates' deficit in half. Jordy Mercer singled with two outs and scored on Liriano's ground ball double down the right-field line. Liriano padded his hitting stats in the fourth with an opposite-field single. The lefty is 12-for-34 with three doubles, a homer and nine RBIs over his last 15 starts.
"Not trying to do anything special," Liriano said. "Just take good at-bats and put the ball in play."
Zack on the spot: The Pirates had cut the Reds' lead to 3-2 in the fifth inning and had runners on first and second with one out when Josh Harrison hit a sharp grounder to Eugenio Suarez at third base. Suarez booted it for his second error of the inning but Zack Cozart retrieved the carom and was able to catch Marte, who had rounded third too far off the bag, in time to tag him for the final out of the inning.
Bailed out: Liriano worked in and out of trouble in the third and fourth innings, twice loading the bases but only allowing one run. The Reds put three straight men on to begin the third, but Liriano got out of it with a sacrifice fly by Phillips and a ground ball double play by Devin Mesoraco. The fourth inning followed a similar script: two Reds on base to start the inning, sacrifice bunt, walk, inning-ending double play.
"He competed his backside off tonight," Hurdle said of Liriano. "He kept us in the game. I thought he did a fantastic job."
Firsts for Hamilton:Billy Hamilton got his first hit, his first RBI and his first stolen base of the season in the sixth inning. Hamilton slapped a single to left field past third baseman David Freese to score Jay Bruce and give the Reds a 4-2 lead. He then swiped second base without a throw but was stranded there. Hamilton stole 56 bases as rookie in 2014 and 57 bases last season despite playing in 38 fewer games and having 151 fewer at-bats.
"Fun. A lot of fun. Just like you're a kid in the backyard, playing and enjoying it. Especially when we took the lead, it makes it even more awesome." --Mercer, summing up the back-and-forth night
"Weather had no effect. It was warm, I was loose. I did everything I needed to do to get into the game. I just didn't execute that pitch." -- Hoover, on cold, wet conditions affecting him
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Ryan Vogelsong threw two innings out of the bullpen and picked up his first win of the season. His last win as a member of the Pirates? Sept. 14, 2005, against the Cardinals.
"It's cool. I've had a lot of moments like this over my career," Vogelsong said. "It's cool to be able to come back here and get a W. Obviously not exactly how I would draw it up, but a win's a win. Good team win."
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates:Gerrit Cole will make his 2016 debut Saturday afternoon at Great American Ball Park, rejoining the Pirates rotation for his first start of the season at 1:10 p.m. ET. Cole likely would have been the Bucs' Opening Day starter, but he was set back at the beginning of Spring Training by right rib inflammation. Pittsburgh's ace has struggled historically against Cincinnati, going 0-4 with a 5.23 ERA in six career starts.
Reds:Raisel Iglesias makes his second start of the season after getting the Opening Day assignment for the Reds. He pitch six solid innings against Philadelphia, allowing two runs on six hits while striking out seven. The right-hander from Cuba faced the Pirates twice last season, going 1-1 with a 6.52 ERA. Both games were in Cincinnati, the last one coming on Sept. 8 in what would be his next-to-last start of the season. Iglesias lasted just three innings, giving up five runs on three hits in a 7-3 loss.