Gambles don't pay off for Bucs in loss

Gambles don't pay off for Bucs in loss

Gambles don't pay off for Bucs in loss
PITTSBURGH -- In one corner, you had Kevin Correia, who had never lost a start to the Reds. In the other, you had Johnny Cueto, who hasn't been losing to anybody.

If you got an inch, this was a game that called for taking a mile.

The Reds did. The Pirates tried, but couldn't.

Despite some later Cincinnati flexing to widen the final margin, that spelled the difference in the Reds' 6-1 victory at PNC Park on Friday, where 20,445 viewed a tale of two schemes.

Chris Heisey gave the Reds an early lead by bunting for a run in the second inning with two outs and a man on third.

"An excellent baseball play. No defense for it. A gutsy play," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "Not a safety-squeeze. I think he was bunting for a base hit, and got a run in."

"A heads-up play. That's something that catches everybody off-guard," said Cincinnati skipper Dusty Baker.

"Yeah, I was surprised. I don't think anybody was really looking for that," Correia said.

With Jay Bruce on third, Heisey pushed Correia's 1-1 pitch about 20 feet at a 45-degree angle between home and the mound as Bruce dashed home uncontested to give Cincinnati a 1-0 lead.

"He put it in the right spot," Correia said. "He's had some pretty good swings against me, so that added to the surprise."

The Bucs also had to push the issue when they had a crack at Cueto, who came in at 3-0 with an ERA of 1.39.

That didn't go as well, in the fourth inning, after Pedro Alvarez's sacrifice fly had already trimmed the Reds' lead to 2-1.

Garrett Jones was on first as Clint Barmes yanked a two-out rope down the left-field line. Heisey briefly bobbled then dug the ball out of the corner with Jones nearing third, so coach Nick Leyva waved him home -- where catcher Ryan Hanigan was waiting with shortstop Zack Cozart's relay.

On the track, Jones is more quarter-horse than thoroughbred, but you can't count on too many shots at Cueto, so Leyva forced the Reds to execute the relay perfectly.

"As I got near to third, I saw [Heisey] kinda fumble it down the line," Jones said. "We had to take a shot at it, just trying to be aggressive. And they made two perfect throws and got me."

Since the potential tying run got erased, it earned Baker's "play of the game" nomination.

"That would have tied the score," Baker said, "and in that inning, they were first-pitch swinging and they were hitting Cueto pretty good and that relay got him out of the inning."

"If we hold up the runner, now we give them the option of walking [No. 8 hitter] Barajas to bring up the pitcher," Hurdle said. "So we were stuck in a hard place. Two good throws got him, but we tried to be aggressive, sneak in a run there and see how it goes."

From that point on, it didn't go particularly well. Cueto got tougher, on his way to a seven-hit complete game. By allowing five runs on nine hits in seven innings, Correia's record against the Reds dropped to 7-2, including a 6-1 mark as a starter.

His second time up, Heisey hit the ball a little farther. His fourth-inning drive into the left-field corner would have been a home run if not for striking a well-placed riser on the wall and going for a triple -- confirmed after a quick replay review. Hanigan's double scored Heisey anyway for a 2-0 lead.

The Bucs halved that in the bottom of the inning on Pedro Alvarez's sacrifice fly before Jones' fruitless sprint around the bases.

Cincinnati immediately retrieved that run, Brandon Phillips' RBI single in the fifth giving it a 3-1 lead.

Cozart and Drew Stubbs connected for back-to-back homers with one out in the seventh, the second home run of the season for both. Jay Bruce hit his eighth off reliever Chris Resop in the eighth.

"Correia went out there and gave us what we needed," said Hurdle, whose bullpen had gotten stretched out in the recent series in St. Louis. "Yeah, we'd like to have a couple of pitches back. After the home runs, there was too much distance for us to cover."

Heisey's bunt hadn't gone nearly as far. But it took the Reds a long way.

Tom Singer is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.