A three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning byTodd Frazier lifted the Reds to a 5-2 Opening Day victory on Monday at Great American Ball Park.
It was a 2-2 game in the eighth when Cincinnati got one-out singles from Billy Hamilton and Joey Votto against lefty reliever Tony Watson. After Hamilton stole third base, Frazier tattooed Watson's 1-1 pitch into the left-field upper deck that sent the sold-out crowd of 43,633 fans into a frenzy.
"It's really exciting," Frazier said. "We gave up two runs that inning and you saw the resilience we had and guys picking each other up."
Reds ace Johnny Cueto gave up four hits and one walk over his seven innings while striking out 10 during his fourth straight Opening Day start. Pirates starter Francisco Liriano finished with two earned runs, two hits and three walks over his seven innings, with seven strikeouts. The game included a 35-minute rain delay before the top of the sixth inning, but both Cueto and Liriano were able to continue.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Cueto in command: Cueto's 10 strikeouts set a personal Opening Day high, and included career strikeout No. 1,000 in the third inning. The Reds' Opening Day record for strikeouts is 12, by Gary Nolan in 1969. Cueto's last three hits allowed during the afternoon all came with two outs. Perhaps his biggest inning came following the delay when he struck out his first two batters in the sixth. After McCutchen's single up the middle, Neil Walker popped out, getting Cueto out of the inning with only 78 pitches. He finished with 100 pitches, 70 for strikes.
"He weathered rain delay, came back out and threw beautifully," Reds manager Bryan Price said. More »
Liriano's extraordinary outing: They say Opening Day is special, and it certainly was in Liriano's case. The first run against him scored on his own balk -- only his fourth such infraction since the end of the 2010 season. The second run came on a home run by the lefty hitting Jay Bruce; Liriano had gone through the entire 2013 season without allowing a home run to a left-handed hitter.
"He started his delivery and stopped," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of the balk that allowed Hamilton to walk in from third base in the third inning. "They had agreed on the pitch [to Frazier] but disagreed on the location, and instead of just shaking [catcher Francisco Cervelli off], he kinda glitched."
Lambo sets the stage: The box score has Andrew Lambo's contribution as an ineffective pinch-hitter. But, oh, what an 0-for-1 it was. The lefty hitter, the Bucs' 25th man who crashed the roster on the last preseason day, dragged Gregg through a 13-pitch at-bat leading off the eighth that included eight two-strike fouls and ended with a drive to the base of the center-field wall that was caught by Hamilton.
Gregg rocked in Reds debut: Following the Lambo showdown, Gregg gave up three more very hard-hit balls over his next three batters. Following Josh Harrison's lined single to left field, Reds left fielder Marlon Byrd made a very nice run toward the wall and a leaping catch at the warning track to temporarily save Gregg and Cincinnati's 2-0 lead. On the very next pitch, however, McCutchen hit a no-doubt shot to center field for the game-tying two-run homer. Manny Parra replaced Gregg and gave up a Walker single beforeJumbo Diaz struck out Starling Marte to end the inning, which earned him the victory -- the first of his career.
"As happy as I am to see it, I'm almost as happy when it's over." -- Hurdle, on the pleasure, and distractions, of Opening Day.
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Since the start of the 2014 season, Watson has a 1.12 ERA (nine earned runs in 72 1/3 innings) in ballparks not called Great American. In Cincinnati over that stretch, he has allowed eight earned runs in six innings (12.00 ERA).
Pirates:Gerrit Cole gets the ball as the Pirates try to square their season-opening series with the Reds on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Cole's final 2014 start came in Great American Ball Park, and he fanned a career-high 12 in seven innings without issuing a walk.
Reds: Following Tuesday's off-day, Mike Leake will start on Wednesday vs. Pittsburgh. The Reds were 1-4 vs. the Pirates last season when Leake started, but he was 1-0 with a 3.21 ERA in those games.