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By Chad Carlson
Photo Credit: AP
In one of the most exciting games in this young season, the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Cincinnati Reds, 7-6, in a wild contest today in the third of their four-game series.  Spot-starter Jeff Karstens was given the ball by Clint Hurdle for the Buccos as the Reds sent Edinson Volquez to the mound.
The Pirates got off to a very fast start today, as Andrew McCutchen and Jose Tabata led off the ballgame with back-to-back solo homeruns.  After Chris Snyder drew a bases-loaded walk, Ronny Cedeno smacked a sacrifice fly, only feet away from out of the park, scoring Neil Walker.  The Buccos occupied an early 4-0 lead.
As good teams always do, the Reds made their comeback in a series of innings.  After tallying a run in the second and fourth innings, they delivered a big blow to Karstens and the Pirates in the fifth frame.  After Miguel Cairo’s solo homerun to bring them within a run, Scott Rolen doubled to shallow left, scoring Joey Votto.  Jay Bruce then singled to right, scoring Rolen and giving the Reds their first lead of the game at 5-4.
The Pirates responded the very next inning with a solo shot by Garrett Jones to deep left and an RBI-double by John Bowker, as the Buccos re-took the lead. 
That was answered an inning later by the Reds, when Bruce hammered a solo homerun to deep center field, tying the game, 6-6.  Bruce has had a strong series against the Buccos, including today’s 4-5 performance with two RBI.
The Pirates proved to have the last knockout punch this afternoon, and it came from the bat of McCutchen.  With two runners on in the eighth, the Buccos’ centerfielder singled to shallow center, allowing Snyder to cross home plate, giving the Pirates a 7-6, which would be the final.  Cutch ended his day 3-3 with a homerun and two RBI, while also forcing two walks.  After a troublesome game Friday night, he has rebounded as we all hoped and expected he would, and after dipping below the .200 mark, his average has climbed substantially to .250.
From a pitching standpoint, the Pirates certainly didn’t shut the Reds’ offense down, but they did enough to keep the team in the game and they gave the offense a chance to win.  Karstens pitched 4.1 innings, allowing five runs on eight hits with six strikeouts and just one walk.  His mound opponent, Volquez, went a little deeper, allowing six runs on five hits with an alarming six walks through 5.2 innings.  Both pitchers earned a no-decision today.
The bullpen for the Buccos was strong today.  Other than Jose Veras giving up a run in the fifth, the relievers pitched shutout ball.  Strong performances from Daniel McCutchen, Chris Resop, and Evan Meek set the stage perfectly for Joel Hanrahan to come in and earn his fifth save of the season.  Resop earned the victory today, while Logan Ondrusek was tagged with the loss for the Reds.
This was a HUGE victory for the Pirates for a couple of reasons.  I think we learned a lot about the coaching staff, led by Clint Hurdle of course, by the way the team responded to the abysmal performance in yesterday’s game.  A day after they lost a game by nine runs, they came out and scored four runs of their own in the very first inning.  That speaks to the coaching and the leadership of the club, two extremely important factors to any successfully competitive team. 
Secondly, today’s victory guarantees the Pirates will earn at least a split from the Reds.  With the firepower offense the Reds have and how much trouble the Pirates have had in years past playing in Cincinnati, this was a huge series for them from a confidence standpoint.  They have put themselves in a great position to potentially win another series on the road this season against an N.L. Central opponent.
Kevin Correia will take to the mound tomorrow evening for the Pirates in the final game of the wrap-around series at Great American Ballpark.  Travis Wood will get the start for the Reds.  Hopefully the Pirates can come out strong once again and earn a series-victory in Cincinnati before heading south to take on the Marlins.
Record Vs. Reds: 2-1
Record Vs. N.L. Central: 6-5
Record On The Road: 6-3
Overall Record: 7-8
And…
As Always…
Let’s Go Bucs!