Originally written on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 11/14/14

It was another frustrating night in Cincinnati for the Pirates, as they came up short in both the beanball/intimidation/whatever-you-want-to-call-it battle as well as, you know, the game itself. The Bucs are in danger of being swept in the weekend series, and they now trail the Reds by 5.5 games. Their wild-card edge for the second spot is also down to just 2.5 over the Cardinals.

I didn’t want James McDonald to come out and nail anybody in the first inning. He’s been struggling and it would have been asking for trouble against a good lineup in a huge game. J-Mac didn’t, but still got off to a messy start. The Reds led off with two singles, compounded by a wild throw by Pedro Alvarez. McDonald recovered well with two strikeouts of Ryan Ludwick and Jay Bruce to nearly escape the inning, but Scott Rolen hit a decent inside fastball the other way for a two run single. That hurt, and it seemed like J-Mac could be on the verge of another disastrous outing.

Michael McKenry–batting fifth for the first time in his career–blasted a homer in the second to cut the lead in half. Amazing. Later in the inning, though, is when the real action started. Josh Harrison was hit by a pitch, and it did not appear to be intentional by Mike Leake. Harrison flipped the bat somewhat violently and had some words for Leake (as well as a quick glare), but trotted down to first. Leake made it a confrontation by walking towards Harrison, and the umps quickly jumped on the situation and warned both benches. That didn’t sit well with Clint Hurdle, because the double-warning meant the Bucs wouldn’t be able to retaliate later in the game (or else they’d face ejections/suspensions). Clint went nuts–as he should have–because the Pirates had really done nothing to receive a warning, while Reds pitchers had nailed two Bucs with no penalty to show for it. Hurdle was predictably tossed, and received cheers from the many Bucs fans in attendance.

McDonald tossed a clean second and the Bucs tied it in the third when Alex Presley led off with a triple and Neil Walker knocked him in. The Reds struck back in the bottom of the inning, though, but mostly via some cheap hits. A bunt single, a blooper to left, and an infield hit led to two runs–the only bad pitch McDonald really made was a double by Ryan Ludwick.

Harrison took matters in to his own hands in the best way possible his next time up–he homered to left, putting the Bucs back within one. Awesome. J-Mac settled down and pitched solid fourth and fifth innings, and you could feel the momentum shifting. Garrett Jones then led off the sixth with a double off 1B Todd Frazier‘s glove, then moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Travis Snider‘s sac-fly. J-Mac tossed another 1-2-3 inning to complete a quality start and a pretty solid recovery after a potentially disastrous start. Things really were looking pretty good for the Bucs.

The two top bullpens in the NL exchanged scoreless innings in the seventh, and the Bucs came up empty again in the eighth. Acting manager Jeff Banister made a curious move in the bottom of the inning, sending Jared Hughes out for a second frame after a somewhat stressful seventh. Rolen pounded a leadoff triple that Andrew McCutchen couldn’t catch at the wall, and then let Rolen come in to score on a ground ball out that was chopped well into the air (I don’t think he would’ve had a play at home.)

Aroldis Chapman came in for the ninth, and did his usual thing. Harrison managed a single off him to complete a great at-bat, but Travis Snider popped out, Starling Marte struck out, and Gaby Sanchez eventually struck out after a long at-bat.

A couple mistakes by the Bucs in the field/on the mound cost them, and they lost on the road to the best team in baseball by a run. What can you say? It was a hard fought game and they came up short. As for the bean-ball war, my guess is that Clint Hurdle was hoping for a multi-run lead or decifit (where the Bucs could afford to put a man on) to strike–and that never came. The Harrision incident put them in a tough spot. I still don’t think this is over–it’s noteworthy that the Reds’ two best players didn’t play tonight. We’ll see what A.J. Burnett does on Sunday…and if not then, these teams will still meet six more times.

Reds 5, Pirates 4 / Box / 2012 Record: 60-46 / Next: Sunday, at Reds, 1:10

MVP: Harrison (+.195) / LVP: McDonald (-.139) / Key play: Rolen’s triple

©2012 Raise the Jolly Roger. All Rights Reserved.

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