Clutch Winker's 2nd MLB HR lifts Reds at PNC

Clutch Winker's 2nd MLB HR lifts Reds at PNC

PITTSBURGH -- Jesse Winker had only two home runs this season at Triple-A Louisville. But he didn't waste any time matching that number in the Major Leagues.

A night after hitting his first big league homer against the Pirates on Tuesday, Winker clobbered No. 2, this one unlocking a tied game in the seventh inning off newly acquired Joaquin Benoit and lifting the Reds to a 5-2 victory over the Bucs on Wednesday night at PNC Park. Cincinnati has its first three-game win streak since sweeping a four-game series from the Cardinals June 4-8.

"I was just trying to put together a good at-bat, trying to put the barrel on the ball," Winker said. "Kind of like yesterday, it just happened to get out. I was just trying to battle and be a tough out. I got down to two strikes pretty quick. I was kind of willing to battle his splitter off. I did, 0-1, on that check swing. I was kind of willing to do whatever to try and get a fastball. He gave me the fastballs I was looking for, and I just tried to put a good swing on it."

Winker on his second MLB homer

Winker's solo shot helped the Reds continue their dominance over the Pirates as they clinched their third straight series win vs. Pittsburgh and have won eight of their nine contests against them this season. After coming within two games of first place in the National League Central on July 21, the Pirates have lost eight out of their last 10.

"They're a good lineup. Every guy in their lineup can go deep. You've got to respect that," Pirates catcher Chris Stewart said. "For some reason, they're our kryptonite this year. Try to figure it out tomorrow."

Stephenson's solid start

While the Reds relied on their offense to overpower the Pirates on Tuesday, their pitching got the job done on Wednesday. Right-hander Robert Stephenson, who entered the game with a 7.86 ERA, limited the Bucs to two hits before manager Bryan Price removed Stephenson in the sixth with a runner on second and two outs. His successor, Michael Lorenzen, surrendered back-to-back RBI singles to Josh Bell and David Freese, which tied the game at 2.

Bell's RBI single to center

"Just being able to stick with my approach and drive the ball up the middle, then Freese coming up behind me and doing what he does, driving the ball to right field, we were in a good place there," Bell said. "Things didn't work out."

Price explains decision to remove Stephenson

Raisel Iglesias tossed two scoreless innings to earn his 18th save of the season.

Iglesias nails down the save

Four-star catch:
Winker didn't just contribute at the plate. He also showcased his defensive prowess on a night when runs came at a premium. His impressive diving grab of Adam Frazier's fly ball in the first prevented an early extra-base hit, which preceded an Andrew McCutchen single, and snuffed out any possibility of a big inning. It was rated a four-star catch by Statcast™, with Winker covering 47 feet in 3.4 seconds to make the grab.

"I was just trying to make plays, just trying to play hard and show everyone that I belong," Winker said.

Statcast: Winker's diving grab

Walkin' home: The Reds flirted with breaking the game open in the sixth, when Joey Votto ripped a leadoff double off the center-field wall. Scooter Gennett then beat shortstop Jordy Mercer's throw to first for an infield single, and Eugenio Suarez drew a walk to load the bases and chase Pirates starter Trevor Williams with one out. While the Reds didn't put crooked numbers on the scoreboard, catcher Tucker Barnhart did manage to draw a two-out walk off right-handed reliever Daniel Hudson to bring home a crucial insurance run.

Barnhart's bases-loaded walk

Williams' reliability bodes well for future roles

"He's doing everything that you would hope a young guy would do when he comes up and not trying to do too much. And when he gets a good pitch to hit, he's not missing it." -- Price, on Winker

Price on Winker's go-ahead homer

"He's a good player, and he's a good hitter. … We've shown the ability to pitch to him as well. When we've missed spots, we've paid." -- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, on Winker

Adam Duvall hit a two-run homer to left off Pirates closer Felipe Rivero in the ninth, the first home run allowed by Rivero since May 13, and just the third he's surrendered all season. Rivero had allowed only four earned runs in 50 appearances this season before Duvall increased that total by 50 percent.

Duvall's two-run home run

Reds: For the series' conclusion, rookie Sal Romano will make the start for the Reds at 7:05 p.m. ET on Thursday. Romano struggled with his command and did not throw his changeup much as he lasted 3 2/3 innings for a no-decision during the Reds' 7-4 loss to the Marlins on Friday. This will be his sixth big league start.

Pirates: Chad Kuhl will start for the Pirates on Thursday. Kuhl battled inconsistent command Friday as he walked five but held the Padres to two runs on four hits in 5 1/3 innings. He has recovered well from a rough start to the season, posting a 3.72 ERA in his last 11 starts.

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Jonathan Toye is a reporter for based in Pittsburgh.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.