Reds bats fall silent in loss to Pirates

Reds bats fall silent in loss to Pirates

CINCINNATI -- When Friday's rain wiped out the series opener with the Pirates, an obvious question was what would it do to Reds starter Johnny Cueto?

"I told him before the game [on Friday] ... 'Even though it's supposed to rain, leave your psych on," Reds manager Dusty Baker said before Saturday's game. "You can always turn it off, but once you turn it off, it's hard to turn back on."

Like the timing of Cueto's outing, his "psych" must have been delayed, too. By the time the right-hander started looking strong on the mound, the Reds were already well on their way to a 10-2 loss to Pittsburgh.

In his six innings, Cueto (0-1) gave up four earned runs and eight hits, including five for extra bases, with one walk and nine strikeouts. The 23-year-old did rally and retire the last seven batters he faced, four on strikeouts.

"[Cueto] was throwing better when we took him out," Baker said. "Earlier in the game, he wasn't real sharp. He did record a lot of strikeouts. He made just two mistakes -- one to [Nate] McLouth, and one to Jack Wilson."

McLouth jumped on a 1-1 changeup in the first inning for a two-run home run. In the fourth, following Brandon Moss' one-out blooped double, Wilson followed with a well-hit RBI double off the wall in left-center field. Nyjer Morgan's two-out RBI triple made it a 4-0 game.

As so often happened last season, Cueto threw a lot of pitches early -- 107 total -- and ran into three-ball counts against six of his 26 batters faced.

"When I made the mistakes, I wasn't too aggressive like I was when I was ahead in the count," Cueto said through the interpreting of bullpen coach Juan Lopez.

For the fourth time in four games, the 1-3 Reds saw their opponents score first in the game. But unlike the last two games vs. the Mets, when the lineup tallied a combined 15 runs, there was no significant response or comeback effort.

Pirates starter Paul Maholm (1-0), rarely facing adversity, retired the first 11 batters he faced. Maholm pitched seven innings, allowing one earned run on just three singles with one walk and three strikeouts.

Cincinnati didn't score against Maholm until the seventh when Brandon Phillips crossed the plate on Jay Bruce's RBI groundout to second base.

"His ball does a lot more than people think. It moves a lot," Reds first baseman Joey Votto said. "I think he's smart. He puts the ball usually where he wants to. He's aggressive in the zone."

The only Cincinnati extra-base hit came from pitcher Micah Owings, who hit a pinch-hit double in the eighth.

The game became a blowout on reliever Mike Lincoln's watch, as he gave up five earned runs on three hits and three walks. The big damage came on back-to-back home runs to right field. The first, by Ryan Doumit, was a grand slam, and that was followed by Adam LaRoche's deep drive.

Jay Bruce put some unwanted punctuation on the game with a glaring mental mistake in the bottom of the ninth. Cincinnati had a one-out rally going and scored a run when Ramon Hernandez skied a long fly out to deep center field. Running from first base with his head down, Bruce had nearly passed Edwin Encarnacion on the bases when he was sent back to first.

The ball easily beat Bruce to first base for a game-ending double play that left Baker with an extra bad taste in his mouth.

"It's hard to take when you make mental mistakes like that," Baker said. "When you have a young, young team, you know you're going to make some mistakes. You just hope they're not game-costing or game-ending mistakes. We constantly remind them how many outs there are. These are things you should know. Like in all sports, you run with your head up."

Bruce thought there were two outs and simply ran on contact.

"I don't know what I was thinking. I wasn't," Bruce said. "There is absolutely no excuse for that. It was a lack of focus, and I have to do a better job. Who knows if we would have won or not? But that's not even giving my team a chance. Off the bat, I didn't think he was going to catch it, [but] that's no reason to take off to the races like that. You've got to know the outs and be in position to do both. I just wasn't paying attention. It was ridiculous and embarrassing. It can't happen again, that's for sure. I have to do a better job."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.