PITTSBURGH -- Following a six-inning pitchers' duel on a wet, chilly Saturday night at PNC Park, the Pirates first took advantage of the Reds' mistakes. Then Jordan Luplow took advantage of a rare start, ripping a three-run homer -- his first in the Majors -- that led the Bucs to a 5-0 win.
Hitless in his first 12 at-bats in the Majors, Luplow ended that streak with an infield single in the second inning. Admittedly feeling less pressure, the rookie outfielder came to the plate with two on and one out in the eighth inning against Wandy Peralta, swung at the first pitch he saw and launched it a Statcast-projected 390 feet to left-center field.
"He's hit the ball all year long, so we felt it was a matter of time until he started hitting it here," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Luplow, who went deep 23 times in the Minors this season. "Took advantage of a starting opportunity tonight. The first hit probably helped him just breathe a little more. There's a little anxiety going on; you want to get the first one and move on. He's got the first two out of the way."
As starters Jameson Taillon and Tyler Mahle traded zeroes for six innings, it became clear something unusual would have to take place for someone to break through. It happened in the seventh. With John Jaso on first base, Starling Marte hit a fly ball to shallow center field that landed just past diving second baseman Scooter Gennett as Jaso hustled around to third base. Center fielder Billy Hamilton leaped over Gennett to avoid a collision, and catcher Stuart Turner couldn't contain right fielder Phillip Ervin's throw as it bounced between third base and home plate. Turner got tangled up with pitcher Michael Lorenzen, giving Jaso time to score the night's first run.
"It's a little muggy, and everybody's not gonna get the great jump they wanted to," Hamilton said. "For me, I didn't get the jump I wanted to. I kind of went back a little and Scooter made a terrific effort to make that play. After that, mistakes happen. Ball's wet, you can't control that. Of course we didn't want that, but everybody's playing hard."
Mahle fired six shutout innings, and Taillon bounced back amid a rough second half by allowing only three hits, two of them to Hamilton. But Luplow and the Bucs capitalized when they needed to, mustering enough offense to end their four-game losing streak.
"I haven't really had that tough of a stretch like I just had at this level. It's tough," Taillon said. "This is the best league in the world. Results are all that matters. In the Minors, there's always developmental things. Up here, you want to pitch well and keep your team in games."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED First things first: Taillon set the tone for the night in the first inning. Hamilton slapped a leadoff double to right and took third base on a wild pitch, then Taillon settled in. He struck out Zack Cozart on an inside fastball, got Joey Votto to pop out to short on the first pitch and froze Adam Duvall with a curveball for a called third strike, stranding Hamilton at third base.
Retiring Votto quickly was key for Taillon, as the Reds first baseman wore him out when they met last weekend in Cincinnati.
"Depending on the situation with him, the plan is to never let him beat us," Taillon said. "If he's going to get his hits, do it in a couple pitches. If I'm going to get him out, do it in a couple pitches. ... I wasn't going to let him ruin my pitch count today."
Leave 'em loaded: The Pirates put just one runner in scoring position before the fifth inning. With two outs, Taillon started a rally with a single to center. Mahle then hit Josh Harrison with a pitch, and Marte reached on an infield single to load the bases. Up came Andrew McCutchen, seeking his first career grand slam. Mahle got ahead of McCutchen with a pair of fastballs, then McCutchen flied out to left field to end the inning.
"I've faced him six times now," Mahle said, referring to McCutchen. "I'm not saying I figured him out, but I know what I have to do."
"Once you saw bodies starting to fall and the tumbling is starting to happen, you never know what's going to go on. You get a pitcher involved in a play and a throw and there's nobody backing up, nobody at home, you never know what can happen. [Jaso] picked up on it. It worked to our advantage."--Hurdle, on how the Pirates scored their first run
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In the sixth inning, Hamilton stole second and third base against Taillon. It was the ninth time this season the Reds speedster has stolen second and third in the same inning.
Harrison took a 95.3-mph fastball off his left hand while batting in the fifth inning. He remained in the game to run the bases, but exited in the sixth. Sean Rodriguez replaced Harrison after his Major League-leading 23rd HBP. According to the Pirates, Harrison is being treated by team doctors and awaiting additional consultation with an orthopedic hand specialist.
Mahle also plunked Pirates third baseman David Freese in the left hand in the sixth inning. Freese remained in the game and returned to the field after being examined by a trainer.
WHAT'S NEXT Reds: Right-hander Sal Romano, one of four rookies in the Reds' rotation, will take on the Pirates in the finale Sunday at 1:35 p.m. ET. He has a 2.70 ERA in 20 innings over his past three starts. Starting against the Pirates on Aug. 3 at PNC Park, he yielded four earned runs in six innings in a 6-0 Reds loss.
Pirates: The Pirates and Reds will finish their three-game series Sunday afternoon at PNC Park with right-hander Trevor Williams taking the mound for the Bucs. Williams owns a 4.08 ERA in 14 outings (11 starts) at home this season.