Pirates pick up where they left off, batter Reds (Jul 21, 2018)

The Pittsburgh Pirates were one of the teams that didn’t want to stop playing when the All-Star break arrived. Their only problem when the break ended was they couldn’t get started when they wanted.

But once they endured a nearly three-hour rain delay Friday night in Cincinnati, they picked up where they left off before the break by pounding the Reds 12-1 – their seventh win in a row and ninth in 10 games. They also reached the .500 mark at 49-49 after being eight games under only two weeks ago.

Sean Rodriguez, who came in batting .145, had a three-run home run against Reds starter Tyler Mahle (7-8) among his three hits and drove in four runs in his first game since injuring his right quadriceps on June 24. Starling Marte added a grand slam with his team already up 7-1 in the eighth inning, which helped make the 1:33 a.m. EDT finish almost bearable for the streaking Pirates.


“These guys have been playing unbelievably well,” said Rodriguez, who had been on a minor league rehabilitation assignment. “The train’s been rolling. I wanted to see if I could hop on and contribute.”

Jameson Taillon (7-7) was strong again versus the Reds, allowing one run over 5 1/3 innings, though he wasn’t quite as dominating as he was in beating them 5-0 with a complete-game one-hitter on April 8.

Right-handers Nick Kingham (4-4, 4.26 ERA) of the Pirates and Anthony DeSclafani (4-2, 5.32) of the Reds will match up Saturday night in the second game of the three-game NL Central series at Great American Ball Park. The Pirates have won seven of 11 in the season series to date.

Kingham, a 2010 Pirates fourth-round draft pick, is a rookie who will be facing the Reds for the first time. DeSclafani, who missed all of last season and the first two months of this season with injuries, is 2-2 with a 3.38 ERA in seven career starts against Pittsburgh.

DeSclafani beat the Pirates 8-6 on June 17 at PNC Park, giving up two runs over 5 2/3 innings. He’s had great success against much of the Pirates lineup, but outfielder Gregory Polanco is 5-for-17 (.294) with one homer and two RBIs.

While the Pirates kept up their pre-All-Star break surge Friday with 16 hits, five for extra bases, the Reds also have been on a decided upward trend that first baseman Joey Votto said was certainly being noticed by opposing teams.

The Reds are 21-11 since mid-June, despite dropping their last two, a mini surge that is supplying a team that began the season with records of 3-15 and 8-27 hope that they will do much more the rest of the season than simply play out the schedule.

They don’t expect a long and dismal Friday night to alter that.

“Our next step is getting up to .500 and going from there, and we’ve got two months to make that happen,” Votto said after returning from the All-Star Game in Washington. “What we’ve done of late is really pretty impressive, and guys around the league have commented on it, coaches and managers, so we’ll go from there.”

A 10-game homestand to start the post-All-Star part of their schedule would seem to offer hope that their upswing can continue, but the Reds are playing nearly the same at home (21-27) as they are on the road (22-27).

“Guys are excited to play ball – guys are excited to play winning ball,” Votto said. “We need to continue to play well. We’ve done a little bit, (but) we haven’t really done hardly anything yet. Continuing to trend upwards, getting to .500, would be a pretty cool step.”

Especially given that the Reds have been as many as 19 games under .500.

“It’s a long season and there’s time to turn things around,” All-Star second baseman Scooter Gennett said. “We have another 70-some games left, there’s definitely some time to do some pretty cool stuff.”

Their season must have seemed longer still Friday night, when the game didn’t begin until 10:05 p.m. EDT, or after most of the other East Coast games had ended.

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