Jordan Luplow’s first major-league hit took the weight off his shoulders. His second gave the Pittsburgh Pirates a glimpse into his potential.
The rookie right-fielder’s three-run home run in the eighth broke open a close game as the Pirates pulled away for a 5-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night.
Luplow smashed 23 home runs in the minors this year but came in 0 for 12 in the big leagues. He beat out an infield single in the second, a ball that will go to his mom. He’ll likely just hold on to the one that went from Cincinnati reliever Wandy Peralta’s left hand to Luplow’s bat to the first row of seats in left-center field with two on in the eighth.
“I’m just trying to square up baseballs and if they happen to go over the fence they do, if they don’t, they don’t,” Luplow said. “I can’t control that. I just try to put my ‘A’ swing on every pitch. … That was my ‘A’ swing.”
Starling Marte added three hits for Pittsburgh. A.J. Schugel (4-0) picked up the victory in relief as the Pirates ended a four-game losing streak.
John Jaso gave the Pirates the lead in the seventh during a sequence straight out of Little League .
Jaso stood on first when Marte hit a bloop single to shallow center field. Cincinnati second baseman Scooter Gennett and center fielder Billy Hamilton collided trying to grab it. Right fielder Phillip Ervin picked it up and threw home. The ball sailed well up the third-base. Reds reliever Michael Lorenzen (8-3) tried to chase it down and ended up running into catcher Stuart Turner, leaving home plate unprotected. Jaso alertly sprinted home to put the Pirates in front.
“Scooter made a terrific effort to make that play, which he almost made,” Hamilton said. “After that, mistakes happen. The ball’s wet. You can’t control anything like that. Phil came in and threw the ball. It ended slipping away.”
Hamilton had two hits for Cincinnati and stole two bases to boost his total to a major-league leading 58.
The Pirates hoped to enter September still in the playoff race but instead find themselves playing out the string and tinkering with the lineup as the season enters its final month. It’s how Luplow found himself in right field. He made the most of his third career start.
“He’s hit the ball all year long,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We felt it was just a matter of time before you start hitting it here.”
Pittsburgh starter Jameson Taillon entered with a 7.68 ERA since the All-Star break but delivered his best outing since June 29, pitching six shutout innings with one walk and four strikeouts.
Cincinnati rookie Tyler Mahle matched Taillon out for out. The 22-year-old held the Pirates scoreless for six innings in his second major-league start, giving up five singles and striking out three. Mahle received no run support from an offense that has been hit or miss of late. The Reds have scored at least seven runs four times in eight games but have also been shut out three times over the same stretch.
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The Reds picked up manager Bryan Price’s option for 2018. Price is 266-356 in three-plus years while overseeing Cincinnati’s rebuilding process. The team’s decision was first reported by the Cincinnati Enquirer.
“We want to be here when the team turns the corner and we’re looking at talking about playing baseball in October again,” Price said. “Nobody wants to bail on this. I’m fortunate to come back for a fifth year. The win-loss with me is not great in my four years here, but I think we’re handling adversity and handling it well.”
Reds: Peralta exited two batters after giving up the homer to Luplow with hip pain. Price said the team hopes Peralta will only be out a couple of days. … OF Jesse Winkler (strained left hip flexor) ran at PNC Park on Saturday as he works his way off the 10-day disabled list.
Reds: Sal Romano (4-5, 4.91 ERA) goes for his third consecutive victory on Sunday. The rookie has gone at least six innings in five of his last six starts.
Pirates: Trevor Williams (5-7, 4.37) will look for his first win in five starts in the series finale. Williams is 0-3 with a 5.31 ERA during his slide.