PITTSBURGH — The tangible things the Pirates have to play for this season are either distant memories or ... let's say something sideways of actual motivation.
Avoiding 100 losses would be nice, but it's also not a message they have plastered all around the clubhouse. You wouldn't think so, anyway.
Nevertheless, the Pirates do have a chance this week — and beyond — to make life miserable for a couple teams, especially a Cincinnati squad they're going to see nine times over the final 19 games of the season.
The Reds began the day with a half-game lead over the Cardinals and Padres in the National League Wild Card race, although the Pirates muddied that picture by opening a three-game series with a 6-5 victory over Cincinnati on Tuesday at PNC Park.
The Pirates, who had lost five in a row to the Reds, are now just 2-9 against them in 2021. Pittsburgh (53-91) constructed a 6-0 lead, withstood a wobbly sixth inning, then finished strong with three innings out of a back of the bullpen now missing David Bednar.
The end result was the fifth win in six tries for the Pirates, who have gone 11-12 over their last 23. Ke'Bryan Hayes, still batting leadoff, had two hits. So did Yoshi Tsutsugo, Jacob Stallings and Ben Gamel. Tsutsugo and Stallings contributed a pair of RBIs apiece.
This one didn’t come easy. The Reds scored four times in the sixth and drew to within one on a solo home run from right fielder Nick Castellanos in the ninth inning. Thankfully for the Pirates, Chris Stratton bounced back and struck out Joey Votto to end it.
Dillon Peters was very good through five innings, although some loud contact against him in the fifth might’ve convinced Derek Shelton to turn to his bullpen, a move that nearly backfired on the Pirates manager.
Reds second baseman Jonathan India (95.9 mph) and shortstop Kyle Farmer (102.7 mph) both had hard-hit singles against Peters in the fifth, and it was Nick Mears who started the sixth, with Shelton likely worried about Peters facing the Reds a third time.
This followed, of course, Peters getting through the first five innings without allowing a run. Peters gave up five hits (four singles) with one walk and five strikeouts, but Mears struggled quite a bit, the Reds sending nine hitters to the plate.