CINCINNATI -- Sean Rodriguez, Francisco Cervelli and Jordy Mercer were a combined 0-for-12 after nine innings Friday night. But after seeing the middle of the order power through the first nine, the bottom of the Pirates' lineup pulled it together in extras, engineering a 10th-inning rally and leading the Bucs to a 9-7 win over the Reds at Great American Ball Park.
"The game's fun. Different things happen. Different opportunities get presented to different people," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We had an opportunity to stay in a game tonight and battle back and win. I'm very proud of the way they played."
Jung Ho Kang's two-run homer in the seventh inning ultimately sent the back-and-forth affair into extra innings. And it was Kang who started Pittsburgh's rally in the 10th, reaching base for the fifth time when he drew his second walk off Reds lefty Tony Cingrani. Rodriguez followed with a single, then Cervelli squared to bunt.
"In those situations, I trust the guy behind me," said Cervelli, struggling at the plate recently and nursing a sore left hand. "The way I've been swinging, I have to do it perfect to do it right."
But Cervelli's bunt was perfect, and his hustle loaded the bases for Mercer. The Bucs shortstop swatted a single through the drawn-in infield and into left, bringing home pinch-runner Pedro Florimon for the go-ahead run.
"With [Cingrani], you've got to be patient," Cervelli said. "He wants you to hit a ground ball. Kang was patient. Sean hit it in the right spot, and then we started doing little things."
David Freese extended the Pirates' lead with a two-run single up the middle, and the insurance runs proved to be valuable as Reds right fielder Steve Selsky clubbed his first career homer off Pirates closer Tony Watson in the bottom of the 10th inning.
"You've got to come in pounding the zone and that's been a little bit of a recent nemesis for Tony has been the first hitter and he's got good stuff," Reds' manager Bryan Price said. "Today wasn't his day. They did some good things against him. He's had a terrific year and when he gets back out there tomorrow he's just got to do a better job."
The Pirates and Reds traded runs in the early innings. Pittsburgh took a 3-0 lead in the first, but Cincinnati evened the score on Ramon Cabrera's second-inning homer. The Bucs pulled back ahead when Kang was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the fifth, but Joey Votto singled home a run in the fifth to tie it up again. With two outs and Pirates starter Ryan Vogelsong out of the game, Scott Schebler crushed a two-run triple to the center-field fence, pushing the Reds ahead with a bullet that came off his bat at 108 mph.
With the win, the Pirates pulled back within two games of .500. With their postseason odds nearing zero and 16 games remaining, the Bucs remained 5 1/2 games behind the surging Mets for the National League's second Wild Card.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Kang show: During a rough summer at the plate and in the field, Kang appeared to be enduring the dreaded sophomore slump in his second year with the Pirates. But Kang's bat has come back to life since he came off the disabled list last week, and he's surpassing the lofty standard he set in his first Major League season. He crushed his 19th homer of the year to center field in the seventh, a game-tying, Statcast-projected 420-foot blast. It was Kang's fifth homer in 11 games since returning from a right shoulder subluxation.
"I was looking for something in the middle, and luckily I had one really good pitch to swing at," Kang said through interpreter HK Kim. "I tried to put some damage on it and the barrel on the ball."
Hot Coffee: Slumping through much of the second half, Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco scalded the ball three times. After Andrew McCutchen put the Pirates on the board with an RBI double in the first, Polanco ripped his 22nd home run of the year into the right-field seats. Polanco's first homer since Aug. 29 traveled a Statcast-projected 372 feet and came off his bat at 101.6 mph. Polanco singled in the seventh, but his hardest-hit ball of the night was an out -- a 103.5-mph lineout to second baseman Brandon Phillips in the third.
"Sometimes the league makes it hard," Hurdle said. Sometimes you get opportunities to do some special things." More >
Record-breaking bullpen: Kang's eighth-inning homer off of Blake Wood was the 93rd allowed by the Reds' bullpen this season, breaking the Major League record previously held by the 1964 Kansas City Athletics. It was also the 236th allowed by the pitching staff, which tied the franchise record set in 2004. The Reds pitching staff sits three homers behind the 2001 Rockies for the National League record and five behind the 1996 Tigers for the all-time record.
"You have to do special things to put up special numbers -- unfortunately this special thing is not something we're terribly proud of at all," Price said. "We're not going to blame it on the ballpark, either. This isn't a ballpark-related issue. It's not like we're giving up a bunch of Front Row Joe home runs. The ball has to be hit relatively well to go out of the ballpark. We've given up a lot. There's no other way to describe it." More >
Not the same song: After a strong return from the 60-day disabled list, Vogelsong has struggled. His rough September continued as he allowed six runs on seven hits over 4 2/3 innings. The veteran right-hander was a few feet away from escaping the fifth inning with the score tied, but he dropped John Jaso's throw while covering first. That proved to be the end of his night, setting up Schebler's big hit. Vogelsong has a 10.19 ERA and 1.98 WHIP over his last four starts; in his previous five starts, Vogelsong recorded a 2.48 ERA and 1.14 WHIP.
"This is something we could have done all year, but that's the ups and downs of a Major League Baseball season. It's good to see these guys swinging the bats well. It's encouraging."-- Vogelsong, on the Pirates scoring 24 runs over the last two games
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
McCutchen struck out in the seventh inning, his first of the game and his 134th of the year. That set a single-season record for McCutchen, who whiffed 133 times in 157 games a year ago.
Pirates reliever Juan Nicasio struck out two in a scoreless inning, giving him at least one strikeout in a club-record 28 straight relief appearances. Nicasio tied Andrew Miller for the longest such streak by a reliever this season; Miller did so with the Yankees from May 6-July 17.
SELSKY'S FIRST ROUND TRIP
Selsky led off the bottom of the 10th after Cingrani surrendered his lead by knocking a 1-0 sinker over the left-center field wall for his first career home run. Selsky's blast traveled a projected 423 feet with a 103.6 mph exit velocity, according to Statcast™.
"I guess, a lot of people dream of getting to the big leagues and then getting their first hit and first home run, so it's an exciting moment," Selsky said. "I played it in my head many times before it happened and it felt pretty good."
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
After surrendering the two-run homer in the first, Robert Stephenson came back and appeared to hit Kang with a 1-1 pitch. Price spent a long time discussing the call with home-plate umpire Gerry Davis before opting to challenge it. The call stood upon review.
In the top of the 10th after Cingrani put the first two men on base, Cervelli tried to move the runners over with a sacrifice bunt. Placing it well, Cervelli was able to beat Cingrani's throw to first. With the Reds out of challenges, the umpires chose to review it but without enough evidence to overturn, the call on the field stood.
Two batters after Cervelli's bunt single, Jason Rogers, pinch-hitting in the pitcher's spot, hit one sharply to shortstop Jose Peraza, who fired home to get the runner at the plate. In turn, Cabrera threw to first to get Rogers on the double play. The Pirates challenged the call at first and it was determined that Rogers beat the throw and the call on the field was overturned. Immediately after, Price asked the umpires to review whether Rodriguez's slide into home violated the slide rule. On that review, the umpires did not believe that the slide was against the rules. Price came out to argue their decision and was ejected.
"He changed his direction, slid on the inside of home plate in fair territory and stuck his leg out and hooked the catcher," Price said. "So, not only did he change his direction, he made contact and interfered with our catcher's ability to complete the double play. As much time as we spend sitting here listening about these rules, you want them to be put in place when there's video evidence to suggest that there should be and tonight it failed badly. I mean, it failed as badly as I've seen this year. It was a real poor assessment of that play." More >
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: The Pirates will send rookie right-handers Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams to the mound Saturday in a doubleheader against the Reds at Great American Ball Park. After skipping his last start, Taillon will return to the rotation to pitch the opener at 12:10 p.m. ET. Williams will make his first Major League start in the nightcap, scheduled to begin at 6:10 p.m. ET.
Reds:Anthony DeSclafani will pitch the first game of Saturday's doubleheader after having his last turn in the rotation skipped. Left-hander Brandon Finnegan will start the second game.