Pirates' middle infield covers all bases

Mercer, Harrison dominate defensively vs. Reds

Pirates' middle infield covers all bases

CINCINNATI -- From down the first-base line to behind third baseman David Freese, the Pirates' middle-infield duo of Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer had virtually all of Great American Ball Park covered in the Pirates' 6-5 win over the Reds on Friday night.

"I thought they were fantastic," manager Clint Hurdle said.

Even Cincinnati's hitters agreed with Hurdle's assessment, especially about Mercer.

"He was everywhere today," Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips said. "He did a great job. He saved a lot of runs."

That was true in the fifth inning alone, when Mercer reeled in two balls deflected off Freese's glove and made impeccably strong, accurate throws.

To lead off the fifth, Eugenio Suarez hit a hard grounder that Freese couldn't grab. But Mercer was ready, snagging the carom and throwing across the infield to John Jaso at first base.

"Nobody thought he was going to make that play," Phillips said.

Nor would anyone have expected Mercer to make a similar play three batters later, when Devin Mesoraco hit another ball off Freese's glove. Mercer reacted quickly as Phillips rounded third, knowing Phillips would head home.

Mercer picked up the ball with his right hand and zipped it to catcher Francisco Cervelli, who laid out to tag the sliding Phillips for the final out of the inning.

"I just happened to be in the right spot at the right time," Mercer said. "I always go back up third base on ground balls. I got two deflected at me -- right spot at the right time."

Harrison, Mercer's double-play partner, seemed to be in the right spot Friday night from the first inning on. Zack Cozart, the Reds' leadoff man, dropped a foul bunt down the first-base line. Right as it seemed to be rolling into fair territory, Harrison swooped in and grabbed it to make sure it was foul. Cozart grounded out four pitches later.

Harrison's heads-up play

In the second inning, Reds speedster Billy Hamilton, one of the game's fastest baserunners, dropped a well-placed bunt between pitcher Francisco Liriano and Jaso. Harrison dashed across the infield, scooped up the ball and flipped it into Jaso's outstretched glove.

Harrison's glove flip

"That's as good of a play as you'll ever see a second baseman make on one of the best, fastest runners in the game," Hurdle said.

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.