McCoy: Reds shuffle lineup, pound Pirates

After much teeth-gnashing from fans on social media, Cincinnati Reds manager David Bell finally acquiesced and reconstructed his batting order Friday night in PNC Park.

He removed Elly De La Cruz from the leadoff position and replaced him with TJ Friedl and dropped De La Cruz to third.

Did it work? Did it ever. Cincinnati Reds 9, Pittsburgh Pirates 2.

Friedl produced two walks, a single, scored twice and drove in a run. De La Cruz contributed a triple, a single, drove in three and scored a run.

And the Reds returned to their style that was so successful before the All-Star break. They punched 11 hits that included eight singles, one double, one triple and one home run.

The batting order shuffle paid an instant positive result, three runs in the first inning against Pirates starter Johan Oviedo.

Oviedo was 4-11, but had won his previous three starts and given up two earned runs in 20 innings.

Friedl did what good leadoff hitters do. He worked Oviedo for a full-count walk to open the game. Matt McLain, lifted from third to second in the order, singled to center.

De La Cruz, who batted .207 and struck out 40 percent of the time while batting leadoff, pulled a two-run triple to right. Spencer Steer singled and it was 3-0 before Oviedo recorded an out.

And the bottom of the order contributed, too. Stuart Fairchild was hit by a pitch with one out in the fourth, one of three batters Oviedo plunked.

Number eight hitter Will Benson singled and number nine hitter/catcher Luke Maile crushed a 410-foot three-run home run into the Reds bullpen in left center field. It was his fifth homer and the Reds’ No. 3 catcher is 11 for his last 29.

“He (Oviedo) was pitching us inside the first few innings, and he doubled up on it and I was able to put a good swing on it,” said Maile to Bally Sports Ohio during a post-game interview.

While the Reds were having fun with the new batting order, starting pitcher Andrew Abbott was celebrating a return to effectiveness after two straight struggle games.

For five innings, the left-handed rookie held the Pirates to one weak infield hit. He retired the first two in the sixth, then ‘Ke’Bryan Hayes homered, Bryan Reynolds doubled and Andrew McCutchen singled to cut Cincinnati’s lead to 6-2.

That was it for Abbott, his fuel tank obviously on ‘E.’ He was replaced by Derek Law, who promptly gave up a single to Connor Joe, putting two runners aboard.

Law snuffed the rally by getting Henry Davis on a ground ball.

Abbott pitched 5 2/3 innings and gave up two runs, four hits, walked none and struck out seven, improving his record to 7-3.

“The difference (for Abbott) from his last couple of outings was that he just had his fastball command,” said Maile. “When he has his fastball really, really where he wants to it makes all the other stuff much better. The change-up showed that tonight.”

Oviedo’s line was ugly — five innings, six runs, five hits, two walks, four strikeouts, three hit batsmen, a wild pitch and a home run.

The Friedl/De La Cruz batting order adjustment helped the Reds tuck it away in the eighth with three runs.

Stuart Fairchild led off with a single and Benson singled, his third hit. Maile bunted the runners to third and second.

Friedl singled for a run and De La Cruz singled for the seventh run and Spencer Steer singled to make it 9-2.

Beating the Pirates has not been easy for the Reds. They had lost seven straight in PNC Park. They lost four straight in PNC Park in April and scored six runs.

The Pirates were a shocking story early in the season and occupied first place in the National League Central for 33 days. The Reds sat in first place 32 days.

Pittsburgh, though, took a nosedive and toppled to fourth place and at the trade deadline five high-profile players were sent packing via trades.

While the Reds were plundering the Pirates, the Chicago Cubs beat the Toronto Blue Jays and remained in a virtual tie with the Reds for second place in the National League Central.

Before the game, the Reds announced that Jonathan India suffered a setback on his recover road back from a foot problem and most likely won’t return until September.

And the team optioned Nick Senzel to Class AAA Louisville and recalled Henry Ramos, who hit a 495-foot home run for the Bats on Thursday.

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