The last time Gerrit Cole pitched in Cincinnati before Sunday, the Pittsburgh right-hander and Cincinnati rookie right-hander Luis Castillo hooked up in a classic pitcher’s duel that ended with the Pirates squeezing out a 1-0 win on Aug. 26.
Sunday, it was another Reds rookie right-hander, Robert Stephenson, who faced Cole. Both had one-hitters through the top of the sixth inning before the Reds erupted.
Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett hit two-run homers, knocking Cole out of the game without getting an out, and the Reds went on to complete their second sweep of a three-game series against the Pirates with a 5-2 win.
The sweep was the Reds’ first of the Pirates in a Cincinnati three-game series since April 6-9, 2015. The Reds, who swept a three-game series in Pittsburgh on April 10-12 of this season, pulled to within of fourth-place Pittsburgh in the National League Central Division and are just two wins away matching last aeason’s total of 68.
“We should strive for a lot more,” manager Bryan Price said. “We should be talking about getting to the top of the division, but at this point in time, unfortunately, it’s fourth place. It is better than where we currently stand and we should push hard.”
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Suarez followed Jesse Winker’s leadoff walk – the first leadoff batter to reach base against Cole in the game – with his 26th homer, a high drive into the home team’s bullpen in left-center field. Joey Votto drew his second walk of the game and Gennett lined his 25th homer into the right field seats.
Gennett becomes the fifth Red to hit at least 25 home runs this season, tying the 1956 teams for the franchise record for most players with at least 25 homers. Catcher Ed Bailey, center fielder Gus Bell, first baseman Ted Kluszewski, right fielder Wally Post and left fielder Frank Robinson each surpassed the count as those Reds finished that season with 221 homers, the franchise record until 2005.
“It’s pretty cool man to have five guys with that many,” Gennett said. “Obviously, we can hit. It’s nice to see the other pieces are falling in. I finally feel if they give up four or less we have a pretty good chance to win.”
Relief pitcher Daniel Hudson hit Zach Vincej – making his first major league start – with a pitch, and Vincej scored on catcher Tucker Barnhart’s triple past first baseman Josh Bell and the bag and into the right field corner.
Cole (11-11) allowed three hits and three runs with four walks and six strikeouts in five innings while slipping to 1-8 in 12 career starts against the Reds.
Cole, who hit a solo home run in Pittsburgh’s 1-0 win during his last start in Cincinnati on August 26, burned the Reds with a two-strike “butcher boy” double over drawn-in center field Scott Schebler after showing bunt, giving Pittsburgh runners on second and third with nobody out in the third. Stephenson escaped by striking out leadoff batter John Jaso, getting left fielder Jordan Luplow to pop out to shortstop Zach Vincej and Andrew McCutchen to pop out to Barnhart in foul territory.
“My thought process was, ‘I’m not going to let anyone score. I’m going to bear down right here and make my best pitches and try to get three outs,’” Stephenson said. “If you ask me a year ago, I’d probably tell you I’m just going to try to throw the ball over the plate, try to find contact. I’ve gotten a lot better in situations like that, knowing I can bear down.”
Barnhart also helped Stephenson escape a minor jam in the fourth, which started with Bell drawing a walk. Barnhart threw Bell out stealing as David Freese was striking out.
“The first three innings, he wasn’t that sharp,” Price said. “He didn’t have real good stuff – a lot of big misses. My concern was when to pull the plug. I talked to (pitching coach) Mack (Jenkins) and said, ‘Hey, man, we’ll try to get through five.’ Then innings four, five and six, here he comes. That’s exactly what you want to see. You want to see the struggle. He pitched out of situations and hadn’t given up a run. If we didn’t have a long nine-batter inning where his turn came up, he’d have probably gone out for the seventh.”
Stephenson (5-5) walked four and struck out six over his six one-hit innings.
Deck McGuire and Luke Farrell each pitched an inning, Farrell giving up John Jaso’s two-run homer, before Michael Lorenzen turned in a 1-2-3 ninth for his second save.