PITTSBURGH — Cincinnati Reds rookie Jesse Winker arrived at PNC Park less than an hour before the first pitch on Tuesday night, fresh off the plane from Triple-A and ready for an extended stay in the majors.
The 23-year-old certainly looked at ease in the big time. Winker sent a shot to the seats in right-center field for his first career home run and would have had another if not for a spectacular catch by Pittsburgh left fielder Starling Marte as the Reds pushed around the Pirates in a 9-1 rout.
“I kept it simple,” Winker said. “I didn’t really have time to think about anything other than I knew (Jameson) Taillon was pitching. I had some ABs against him last year in Triple-A. I remembered what he threw against me. I knew he had a big curveball and then I kind of went from there.”
Winker took one of those looping curveballs from the struggling Taillon (6-5) and sent it well over the fence in the fourth to give the Reds a 6-1 lead. Winker nearly added another in the fifth, only to have Marte reach into the first row and pull it back into play for an out.
“I was kind of shocked that he caught it and brought it back,” Winker said. “I was kind of hoping there’d be a Reds fan in there or something.”
Billy Hamilton went 2 for 4 with a triple and a three-run homer before exiting after the seventh with a left ankle issue. Eugenio Suarez added his 17th home run as the last-place Reds beat the Pirates yet again.
Cincinnati is 7-1 against the Pirates this season and 36-62 versus everyone else. Homer Bailey (3-5) allowed one run in six innings, striking out three and walking two to snap a three-start losing streak.
“He kind of got on top of his game,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “All of a sudden he looked like vintage Homer more so than a guy trying to find his way.”
Taillon gave up eight runs on 11 hits in 3 2/3 innings and is 1-3 with a 12.18 ERA since the All-Star break.
“It’s tough,” said Taillon, who missed five weeks earlier in the year to be treated for testicular cancer. “It’s the toughest thing I’ve experienced in my career. You say baseball’s just a game, but this is our livelihood and struggling like that at this level is pretty miserable.”
Pittsburgh stayed relatively quiet at the trade deadline Monday, sending reliever Tony Watson to the Los Angeles Dodgers for prospects and getting right-hander Joaquin Benoit from Philadelphia.
General manager Neal Huntington said he wanted to give his core group a chance to make a run, and the Pirates pointed to an eight-game homestand against Cincinnati, San Diego and Detroit — all of whom entered Tuesday at least 10 games under .500 — as a chance to make inroads in an NL Central race that is starting to get away from them.
The pivotal stretch started with Pittsburgh dropping six games back of the first-place Chicago Cubs after losing for the seventh time in 10 games.
Cincinnati pounded out 14 hits against Taillon and three relievers. Hamilton led off the game with a triple to right-center and scored on Joey Votto’s fielder’s choice. The Pirates tied it in the bottom of the inning on an RBI single by Josh Bell, but Hamilton was just getting started.
Jose Peraza doubled with one out in the second and scored on Tucker Barnhart’s single. Bailey laid down a sacrifice bunt, but Taillon tried to go to second to start a double play. The throw was late and both runners were safe. Hamilton followed by sending Taillon’s pitch a few rows deep for his second home run this season against Pittsburgh to make it 5-1.
That was more than enough for Bailey. The four hits and six baserunners he allowed were both season lows.
Philadelphia is sending Pittsburgh $2,359,726 in four equal biweekly payments starting Aug. 15, covering most of the $2,540,983 remaining on the 40-year-old Benoit’s $7.5 million salary. The Pirates pay $181,257, which is a prorated share of the $535,000 major league minimum.
Reds: Placed OF Scott Schebler on the 10-day disabled list with a left shoulder strain. Called up OF Phillip Ervin from Triple-A Louisville.
Pirates: RF Gregory Polanco (hamstring) went through a full workout, from running the bases to doing outfield drills and seeing high-velocity pitches in the batting cage, as he nears a return from the disabled list. Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said it’s conceivable Polanco could be available Wednesday.
Reds: Robert Stephenson (0-4, 7.86 ERA) makes his third start since joining the rotation last month. Stephenson is 0-2 with a 7.45 ERA as a starter.
Pirates: Trevor Williams (4-4, 4.53) is 3-2 with a 4.00 ERA in his last 14 starts.
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