PITTSBURGH -- There are no losses that aren't critical for the Pirates and their dwindling postseason aspirations at this point as they seem to keep collecting in the season's final month. Saturday's 8-7 defeat to the Reds might have been particularly painful.
For starters, with the Cardinals' win and the Mets' loss, it put the Pirates 5 1/2 games back in the National League Wild Card standings.
It was also because Pittsburgh had opened a 4-0 lead through three innings vs. rookie starter Robert Stephenson. In his Pirates debut, Drew Hutchison was unable to hold the lead when Cincinnati rallied for a four-run top of the fourth inning.
Reliever Trevor Williams surrendered three go-ahead runs in the fifth when he walked Scott Schebler with the bases loaded and no outs and gave up Tucker Barnhart's two-out, two-run double to right field that gave the Reds a 7-4 lead.
"When you don't execute pitches sometimes balls get hit a little weird," Williams said. "It was lack of execution and I tried to make my pitches and unfortunately the ball bounced their way tonight. We'll go at them tomorrow and hopefully get us a win."
But the Pirates did not go quietly and made it a one-run game in the bottom of the sixth against Josh Smith. Josh Harrison hit a two-run double through the gap in right-center field and injured his leg on the way to second base, forcing him to exit the game with right groin discomfort.
Part of his four-hit night, Joey Votto, celebrating his 33rd birthday, provided a big insurance run for the Reds with a leadoff homer to right field in the top of the ninth. It proved big when Francisco Cervelli's two-out RBI single off of Tony Cingrani made it a one-run game and put the go-ahead run on second base. Cingrani escaped to record his 17th save.
Pittsburgh has dropped 10 of its last 12 games to fall to two games under .500 at 69-71.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Barnhart steps up: Once again for the Reds, Barnhart has come through with runners in scoring position and drove in three runs. With the RBI single he hit in the fourth inning and two-run double in the pivotal fifth, he improved to 29-for-74 (.392) hitting this season with runners in scoring position. He entered the night second in the NL in that category and tied for fourth in the Major Leagues.
"I just think you try to put the pressure on the pitcher," Barnhart said. "In the situations where you're up there with guys on in scoring positions, a lot of times you're trying to put pressure on yourself but in all reality the pitcher has to get you out. If not, there's going to be some runs on the board. It's just trying to stick to my approach in all honesty."
Kang Show:Jung Ho Kang continues to terrorize National League pitching since coming off the disabled list. Kang collected an RBI single and a two run homer off Stephenson. In six games since returning from the DL, Kang has four home runs and 10 RBIs. More >
Big birthday for Votto: It was Votto's gift to himself was a 4-for-5 game where he was a triple shy of the cycle. His homer off of Nicasio had an exit velocity of 104 mph, according to Statcast™, and traveled 390 feet. In 2011 at Colorado, he also homered on his birthday. A total of 28 Reds have hit homers on their birthday, including Hall of Famer Tony Perez, who had done it three times.
Rough outing: Hutchison viewed this start as an audition, a chance to impress with an eye toward next season. It didn't turn out well. He was cruising through four innings when he was tagged for four runs in the fifth inning. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle indicated before the game that he had had problems with allowing one big inning in his appearances at Triple-A Indianapolis.
"I didn't do a good job to get out of it," Hutchison said. "I had a four run lead and to give that back is just unacceptable."
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW
The Pirates won a replay challenge in third inning when Josh Bell was called out at second base when he tried to advance on a Andrew McCutchen flyout to center field. Bell was originally called out which would have resulted in a double play. After review he was called safe when the replay showed he got his hand in ahead of the tag.
The Pirates were 1-for-2 on challenges when they lost a review in the ninth inning on Brandon Phillips being hit by a pitch. The ruling stood that Phillips was hit.
WHAT'S NEXT Reds: The series wraps up at 1:35 p.m. ET Sunday with Brandon Finnegan pitching for the Reds. With 28 starts this season, this could be the penultimate start of the 2016 for Finnegan. Manager Bryan Price has tentatively targeted the left-hander to make 30 starts before he's shut down..
Pirates: Right-hander Ryan Vogelsong (3-4, 4.07) will be on the hill for the Bucs. He will be making his 20th appearance and 10th start. Vogelsong is 5-5 with a 4.34 ERA in his career against the Reds in 21 appearances (11 starts).