PITTSBURGH -- A couple of key decisions made by the Reds backfired big time against the Pirates on Monday night, but that didn't mean manager Bryan Price was kicking himself for the decisions themselves.
A 6-5 Reds walk-off loss to the Pirates came on a wacky blooped single by Neil Walker off of reliever J.J. Hoover, but a varied string of events combined to lead to that unpleasant conclusion for Cincinnati.
The Reds had just taken a 5-4 lead in the top of the eighth when Price turned the game over to lefty Manny Parra to begin the bottom of the inning against first batter Andrew McCutchen. Entering the at-bat, McCutchen was 6-for-14 (.429) with a homer lifetime against Parra.
McCutchen hit a 0-1 pitch to right-center field for a game-tying home run.
"Don't forget, a lot of the numbers are based on Manny when he was in Milwaukee and he wasn't the same Manny Parra we are seeing now, No. 1," Price said. "No. 2, that people don't know going into the game, there were a couple of guys we weren't going to use in the game. I didn't have the luxury of using a right-handed relief pitcher for one hitter to get to Manny and then to get to Hoover. It would have destroyed our bullpen. We were heading towards extra innings, potentially, in a one-run game at the time.
"I have a lot of confidence there in Manny. Manny hung a split and McCutchen hit it out of the ballpark, but I don't regret the decision. We did not feel we could utilize a pitcher for one out the way we were set up in our bullpen for the rest of the game."
In the bottom of the ninth, Hoover walked Russell Martin and McCutchen back to back with one out. With two outs, Walker lofted a soft single that crossed up second baseman Brandon Phillips in short right field. Martin scored the winning run as Jay Bruce's throw bounced once and sped up high through Devin Mesoraco's hands at the plate.
"It started in one direction and it was a scuffed ball that went completely the opposite way," Price said of the final hit. "There was no way Brandon could have read that. He was moving towards where it would have gone traditionally."
Hoover's tough April continued as he owns a 13.50 ERA with eight earned runs, seven hits and eight walks over 5 1/3 innings over seven appearances.
"It's totally on me," Hoover said. "I kind of hung that curveball. We were trying to get it down in the dirt. It was a 1-2 count. I had [Walker] where I needed him. I tried to get the curveball in the dirt and left it up a little bit where he could handle it."
Until the fourth inning, things were progressing swimmingly for Reds starter Mike Leake. With Cincinnati holding a 2-0 lead, McCutchen started the Pirates fourth with a single, and then more trouble came on Leake's next three successive pitches. Pedro Alvarez followed with a double off the right-field wall and Walker was hit by the next pitch to load the bases. On the pitch after that, Ike Davis sent a drive to the right-field seats for a grand slam and propelled his new club to a 4-2 lead.
Davis' only other homer this season was a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning for the Mets on April 5 -- against Hoover. Pittsburgh acquired Davis, Leake's former Arizona State teammate, for two Minor Leaguers on Friday.
"I wouldn't call Ike's a bad pitch. I broke his bat on the home run," said Leake, who gave up only the four fourth-inning runs over his seven innings. "He just was able to get his hands to it and do some damage. Alvarez was a mistake that he hit. They're an aggressive team."
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Davis joined Mike Piazza and Ray Boone as the only Major Leaguers to hit grand slams against one team for two different teams in the same season.
The Reds were down by a 4-3 score when Pirates starter Francisco Liriano started out the eighth by allowing three-straight singles. Following hits by Phillips and Todd Frazier, Jay Bruce's RBI single off of reliever Justin Wilson tied the game. With no outs, Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle curiously elected to intentionally walk Ryan Ludwick to load the bases for Mesoraco.
Already with two hits to extend his hitting streak to begin the season at 10 games, the red-hot Mesoraco laced a single to left field that scored Frazier. Bruce also tried to score on the hit but was thrown out at the plate by a one-hop throw from Starling Marte. Price challenged the call, but it was confirmed via replay after a review of one minute and 40 seconds.
The play proved pivotal after the Reds were unable to add on in the inning. Again though, no regrets from Price.
"We're making aggressive plays," he said. "[Marte] had to do exactly what he did and that was throw an absolute perfect strike to the plate in order to get Jay. We have to push the envelope in those situations. You really have to do that. He came up with the big play of the night."
It was an important win for Pittsburgh, which came in losers of three in a row and eight of the last 10.
"Was nice to win in nine today," Walker said. "Obviously our bullpen has been pretty beat up, and we're in the middle of 20-game stretch. So it was good to get a win the way we did tonight. Any time you cannot hit the barrel and find some grass and score a run, especially to win a game, it feels good."