Taking both games of a doubleheader is a tough feat to accomplish, but with 10-4 and 7-3 wins, the Pittsburgh Pirates did so over the Cincinnati Reds.
These two victories bring the Pirates to 74-74 and put them on a four-game winning streak.
The Pirates never trailed in either game and, Sunday, will be going for their seventh series sweep and second consecutive four-game road series sweep of the season. The other came Aug. 25-28 against the Milwaukee Brewers.
In Game 1, the Pirates reached a double digit run total for the second time this week; they had 15 runs cross home plate Thursday night in Philadelphia.
Pitcher Jameson Taillon made his first start since September 7 in the early game and, though manager Clint Hurdle stated after the game his starter didn’t have his best stuff, Taillon did enough to earn his fourth victory of the season.
The Pirates helped him out with a four-run first inning.
In the fourth inning, Taillon’s miscue with a missed location was punished by Adam Duvall for the slugger’s 31st home run of the season. That normally stoic Taillon displayed frustration with the pitch, as evidenced by him slamming his glove down after getting back to the dugout.
Josh Bell had a career-high three hits in the first game of the doubleheader, including an eighth-inning ground-rule double that brought home the Pirates’ ninth run of the afternoon.
Reliever Wade LeBlanc pitched the final three innings, earning his second save of the season and his career. The first came July 23 against the Toronto Blue Jays when he allowed three runs but pitched three innings to earn the save.
Sean Rodriguez received the starting nod at second base after Josh Harrison’s regular-season ending right groin strain injury. This increase in playing time has been a positive for him; he hit a home run in both games giving him four homers in the past five games and 16 on the year. Rodriguez currently owns a seven-game hitting streak.
Game 2 was also a high-scoring affair.
Reds starter Brandon Finnegan got the best of the Pirates when these two teams met at PNC Park six days prior, but, at Great American Ballpark, he lasted all of 2.1 innings spanning 83 pitches.During Finnegan’s, outing five runs scored.
The Pirates’ Trevor Williams, on the other hand, got his first career Major League start, and he set down the first nine hitters he saw. Williams faced the minimum through four innings. He also made a difference at the plate in his two appearances with two walks. The first came on four pitches in a four-run second inning, and the second walk was issued after an eight pitch at-bat that featured four foul balls and a standing ovation by the Pirates dugout after the walk brought Bell home.
The second walk was what pulled Finnegan from the game.
After Scott Schebler and Ramon Cabrera each hit solo home runs in the fifth inning, Pittsburgh pitching coach Ray Searage came out to the mound. This was followed with singles from Steve Selsky and Tyler Holt.
Hurdle decided he’d seen enough, and Williams received a no-decision.
This meant Juan Nicasio would earn the victory, a team-high 10th of the season.
Nicasio pitched two perfect innings, striking out two batters in the process. He now has at least one strikeout in each of the past 29 games to extend his single-season club record.
Pedro Florimon added a run on an RBI double, his first two-bagger of the season. Closer Tony Watson was warming up for a potential save situation but instead got some work pitching a perfect ninth inning.
This series concludes Sunday afternoon when Pittsburgh’s Ivan Nova (12-6, 4.13 ERA) faces Cincinnati’s Dan Straily (12-8, 3.81 ERA). Nova is 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA in four career starts against the Reds.