Like getting the first olive out of the bottle, the runs poured across after that. Nick Castellanos singled, and Mike Moustakas walked to fill the bases. Eugenio Suarez, mired in a season-long slump, unloaded a three-run double to left center, pushing the score to 5-1.
Just call Winker Mr. Clutch, or Mr. Extra Innings, because that was the third time this season he has driven in the winning run in extra innings.
To him, though it always seems blasé, like a plumber taking an extra twist on the wrench because that’s what is needed.
“I just try to simplify it,” he said. “We had Senzel on second, the fastest guy on our team, one of the fastest guys in our league, a great base runner.
“Honestly, I was just trying to get him to third for Casty (Castellanos) and Moose (Moustakas) coming up behind me,” he added. “The ball found a hole and he scored, so I was pumped up about that.”
Cincinnati starter Gray was in deep water for most of his short afternoon — 4 2/3 innings, one run, seven hits, two walks, five strikeouts and four wild pitches.
The four wild pitches were the most by a Reds pitcher in a game in 115 years. And the seven hits were the most off Gray since August of 2017.
But the Pirates were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position in the first two innings and 0 for 7 through four innings.
Cincinnati’s bullpen did what Gray couldn’t do. They kept the Pirates off the basepaths. Tejay Antone, Sean Doolittle, Lucas Sims and Heath Hembree pitched 5 1/3 innings — no runs, no hits, no walks, no baserunners.
Gray was more than receptive of the perfect production from the bullpen.
“The bullpen did such an incredible job,” he said. “Those guys came in and completely shut it down. . .shut down, shut down, shut down, shut down, shut down, shut down. They continued to give our guys a chance.
“We’re such a good offense, such a good team, they gave us opportunity after opportunity until we could string something together in the 10th,” Gray added.
And about Winker, Gray said, “The guy just hits, he was born to hit. He picks up a bat and he hits. You have that feeling that every time he steps in the box, something productive is going to happen.”
Moustakas gave the Reds a 1-0 lead when he opened the second inning with a home run off Pirates starter Trevor Cahill.
Then they got no more against Cahill. He pitched 5 1/3 innings and gave up one run, three hits, no walks and struck out one.
The Pirates scored their lone run in the fifth on three straight one-out singles against Gray by Kevin Newman, Phillip Evans and Gregory Polanco
The Reds had ample opportunities against the Pirates bullpen but took no advantage.
A pair of two-out walks put two on in the sixth, but pinch-hitter Shogo Akiyama grounded to the pitcher.
Suarez opened the seventh with a single and Kyle Farmer punched an opposite field one-out single. But pinch-hitter Tucker Barnhart struck out and Senzel flied to right.
Farmer singled for his third hit with one out in the ninth, but Jonathan India flied to deep center and Senzel popped to shortstop.
Then came the 10th-inning barrage and Hembree closed it 1-2-3. Hembree is close to what amounts to a no-hitter — seven appearances, 7 2/3 innings, no runs, no hits, two walks and eight strikeouts.
Hembree didn’t realize the bullpen was perfect until he was told after the game and said, “It was a good pitching effort all-around. “We just came out and attacked, everybody out there. The stuff we have in the bullpen is pretty great.”
The Reds are Hembree’s fourth team after stints with San Francisco, Boston and Philadelphia and it seems he suddenly found magic.
“I went into the offseason looking into the analytical side, something I’ve never been into,” he said. “Looking into that, seeing how my stuff played when I was at my best, I tried to hone my skills as best I could. That’s where I am right now.”
Reds at Rockies, 8:40 p.m., Bally Sports Ohio, 700, 1410