Rookie pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez spotted the Pirates an early 1-0 lead, but that was it. He went six innings and gave up one run and six hits for his fifth quality start in his last six assignments.
The Pirates took a 1-0 lead in the third inning on a double by Ke’Bryan Hayes and a triple by Bryan Reynolds.
That was it for the last-place Pirates against Gutierrez. They aided the Reds cause by getting two runners picked off base.
The Reds’ lethal offense took over from there, led by Jesse Winker. He had three hits and drove in a career-high six runs, three coming on a three-run home run in the eighth, his team-leading 23rd homer.
The top four batters in the Reds lineup — Jonathan India, Winker, Nick Castellanos, Joey Votto — had nine hits, drove in 11 runs and scored six.
Over the past two weeks the Reds have averaged a tick over seven runs a game.
“It has been amazing and a ton of fun,” said Winker. “It is really, really good at bat after at bat for everybody.”
As far as his six RBI, Winker nearly shrugged them off as if it all comes easy.
“Guys were on base in front of me all night,” he said. “With that, I just wanted to drive the ball hard. I just wanted to do my part and drive them in if I could”
He could. And did.
It all began with a three-run third inning.
Shogo Akiyama started it with a single, India singled and Winker doubled to tie it, 1-1.
Castellanos, 0 for 8 with six strikeouts since coming off the injured list, singled to left to push the Reds in front, 2-1. Joey Votto singled and it was 3-1.
After finally getting his first hit in the third, Castellanos drove a home run to the bullpen in right field, his 19th and a 4-1 Reds lead.
“Just the third game back and I’m getting into the flow of things,” said Castellanos.
With Castellanos and Mike Moustakas back in the lineup, the offense is back to full-go.
“We can be very dangerous, without a doubt,” said Castellanos. “The trick now is to stay healthy the rest of the way. And Winker? Classic Wink, right, He has been doing that all year.
“Hitting is contagious” he added. “The pitchers in their bullpen sit out there and watch rockets being hit all over the field. To see guys in front of you square balls up and take good swings and see the pitcher get fidgety and start looking around … we thrive off that.
“I’m watching these guys turn into a real team and buy in to one theme, one goal — to put Cincinnati into the postseason and deep into the postseason. It’s a process.”
Tucker Barnhart singled to open the sixth, Aristides Aquino pulled a broken bat double and Winker poked a two-run single to right for a 6-1 Reds advantage.
Luis Cessa pitched a spotless seventh, but Brad Brach gave up a two-run home to Reynolds in the eighth, drawing the Pirates to within 6-3.
The Reds put it away in the eighth with five runs, three on Winker’s home run and one on Joey Votto’s 23rd homer, tying Winker for the club lead.
Home runs have been the Reds calling card against the Pirates. They’ve outhomered Pittsburgh 41-16 in head-to-head game this season and 9-1 in the first three games of this series.
Winker sees Castellanos and Moustakas back in the lineup, batting just below him, and appreciates what he sees.
“It’s huge,” he said “These guys are outstanding players, outstanding teammates. Their careers speak for themselves and whenever you can add that to your lineup, it is instant impact, instant offense.”