Reds nip Pirates to sweep series
CINCINNATI (AP) — Marlon Byrd finally helped the team that wanted him.
Joey Votto added to his resurgent series with his first homer since May 10, and Gregory Polanco’s ninth-inning error on Byrd’s line drive sent the Cincinnati Reds to a 3-2 victory and a season-opening sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday.
The Reds improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2011, when they won their first five games. The Pirates hadn’t lost their first three games of a season since 2006, when they started 0-6 on the road.
“Well, you play 162 and see where you are when the dust settles,” manager Bryan Price said. “Three games really doesn’t suggest anything. That being said, 3-0 is a nice start for us.”
Votto hit a tying two-run homer in the sixth inning. The NL’s Most Valuable Player of 2010 didn’t play after July 5 last season because of strained muscles above his left knee. He was 5 for 14 with four RBIs in the series.
Todd Frazier led off the ninth with a double off Rob Scahill (0-1) and advanced on Devin Mesoraco’s groundout. After Jay Bruce was intentionally walked, Polanco muffed Byrd’s liner to right for a game-ending error.
Heading into that at-bat, Byrd — the Reds’ biggest offseason acquisition — was 2 for 12 with six strikeouts.
“It’s been a tough couple of days with the rain and the at-bats,” Byrd said. “That was the first ball I hit to right field on a line.”
Aroldis Chapman (1-0) fanned two of the three batters he faced in the ninth.
Pedro Alvarez singled, homered and scored twice for the Pirates, who wasted leads in each of the last two games.
All three games had rain delays, with Thursday’s featuring a 1-hour, 14-minute break in the middle of the fourth inning. The three delays totaled 4 hours, 23 minutes.
The first pitch on Thursday came less than 12 hours after Votto’s RBI single in the 11th inning gave Cincinnati a 5-4 victory at 1:26 a.m.
“Wins always energize a team,” Byrd said. “As long as you get the ‘W,’ it doesn’t matter how much sleep you get. Four hours, five hours, it doesn’t matter.”
Anthony DeSclafani, acquired from Miami in the trade for Mat Latos, made his first start for the Reds and gave up five hits over six innings, fanning six. Polanco’s infield single with the bases loaded scored Alvarez in the fifth. Alvarez had a solo homer in the sixth for a 2-0 lead.
A.J. Burnett, who lost an NL-leading 18 games last season with the Phillies, made a solid start in his return to the Pirates. He gave up four hits and fanned seven in 5 1-3 innings. Votto’s homer tied it 2-2 in the sixth.
Each of the three games in the series had a rain delay. The three delays totaled 4 hours, 23 minutes. Last season, there were 15 rain delays at Great American Ball Park lasting 18 hours, 11 minutes.
LOVE THE PLACE
Alvarez’s homer was the 134th by the Pirates at Great American, the most by any visiting team in the park’s 13-year history. Also, Pittsburgh has won 49 games there, the most by an opponent.
BILLY KEEPS RUNNING
Billy Hamilton stole two more bases on Thursday, leaving him 6 for 6 in attempts during the series.
Pirates: Josh Harrison was hit in the lower back by DeSclafini’s pitch in the fifth but stayed in the game.
Reds: No decision has been made on where Homer Bailey will make his rehab start on April 12. He’s recovering from surgery on his right forearm last September.
Pirates: Jeff Locke starts the opener of a series in Milwaukee. He’s 2-2 in seven career starts against the Brewers.
Reds: Jason Marquis makes his first start in the majors since July 19, 2013, facing the Cardinals. He had Tommy John surgery in 2013 and pitched in the Phillies’ farm system last year.
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