Cueto, Bullpen Shut Down Pirates As Reds Avoid Sweep At PNC Park

By Chad Carlson
Photo Credit: Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
The Pirates entered this afternoon’s game against the Cincinnati Reds with the opportunity to stay atop of the N.L. Central standings by completing a three-game sweep of their divisional foes.  After scoring just three runs in the first two games of this series, the Buccos needed two things to come away successful today:  to score more runs and they would need another top-notch performance from their pitching staff.
Unfortunately, a pair of costly errors and a lack of offense contributed to the Pirates’ 3-1 loss to the Reds today at PNC Park.
On paper, this matchup looked to have the potential of being an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel with the Reds’ Johnny Cueto facing off against the Bucs’ Jeff Karstens.  Both starters held the opposing offenses in check for the majority of the afternoon.  Karstens gave up three runs, just one of them earned, on seven hits while walking one and striking out one, lowering his ERA to 2.28 but falling to 8-5 on the season.  Cueto bested his on-mound opponent slightly, giving up just one run on four hits through six innings, earning his sixth win of the season.
The Reds got on the board first this afternoon by scoring a run in each of the first pair of innings against Karstens. 
Chris Heisey led off the game by reaching first base and advancing to second on Chase d’Arnaud’s throwing error.  Joey Votto’s sacrifice fly eventually allowed Heisey to score to give the Reds the early advantage.
Similarly in the second inning, Jay Bruce led off the inning by reaching first base.  This time, the Reds’ first batter reached on a walk from Karstens.  After stealing second base and advancing to third on Jonny Gomes’ single,Bruce tagged and scored on Miguel Cairo’s sacrifice fly.  The Reds occupied a 2-0 lead after two innings.
The Pirates cut the lead in half in the fourth inning.  After Neil Walker led off the frame reaching base after being hit by a pitch, Andrew McCutchen crushed an off-speed pitch to the wall for an RBI double, scoring Walker.  Unfortunately, though, Lyle Overbay, Garrett Jones, and Brandon Wood were set down in order, and Cutch was stranded.
Cincinnati responded the very next inning with another unearned run.  After setting the first two men down in the order, Karstens forced Cueto to ground to d’Arnaud, who bobbled the place and elected not to try to throw out the Reds’ pitcher.  Heisey and Edgar Renteria hit back-to-back singles to score Cueto, giving the Reds a 3-1 advantage.
That would be the last of the scoring on the day, as both bullpens shut down the opposing offenses throughout the latter innings.  The Pirates, in particular, had a number of chances to score more runs, leaving five men on base in the fifth-seventh innings.  In all, the Pirates left eight men on base.
The Pirates failed to complete the three-game sweep of the Reds today, but still come away from the first a tough four-series stretch taking two of three from an N.L. Central opponent.  The pitching staff continues to be the dominant story, giving up just three total runs this series against the National League’s highest scoring offense.
Unfortunately, as impressive as the pitching has been for Pittsburgh, the offense has been just as frustrating.  The Buccos only managed a total of four runs this entire series.  That type of offensive output won’t win many games at the Major League level….in fact, it’s pretty incredible that given the fact they only score four runs in a three-game series, they were able to win two out of three games.
So the Pirates are off to a good start in this difficult stretch of games to close out the month of July.  Hopefully, they’ll be able to carry over some this momentum to this weekend’s series against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Record Vs. Reds: 7-2
Record Vs. N.L. Central: 24-14
Record At Home: 25-23
Overall Record: 51-45
As Always…
Let’s Go Bucs!

Chad Carlson

Co-Editor of Fans From The Stands, Pirates' Beat Writer For Armchair Report, Sports writer for AMN, SteelTownRock And Music City Encore Editor

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