By Joe Kay
Joey Votto drove in a pair of runs, and Shin-Soo Choo extended his hitting streak to a career-high 14 games on Saturday, leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 5-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates that revolved around an early rain delay.
The third-place Reds have won the first two games in the NL Central series, closing their gap with second-place Pittsburgh to two games. The Ohio River rivals have split their 12 games this season.
Cincinnati’s Mat Latos (9-3) and Pittsburgh’s A.J. Burnett (4-7) had a tough time finding their control after a 1-hour, 17-minute delay in the middle of the first inning. Aroldis Chapman escaped a two-on threat in the ninth for his 23rd save in 26 chances.
Latos gave up three runs in only five innings. Travis Snider’s pinch-hit RBI double cut it to 5-4 in the eighth, but Logan Ondrusek got Jose Tabata to ground out with the bases loaded, ending the rally.
Chapman gave up an infield single by Andrew McCutchen to open the ninth and made a wild pickoff throw. Shortstop Zack Cozart misplayed Pedro Alvaraez’s grounder for Cincinnati’s third error, leaving runners on first and third.
The All-Star closer got a pop-up, then fanned Michael McKenry and Jordy Mercer to end it.
Choo had a double and a single, extending the longest streak by a Reds player this season.
Thirteen minutes after the first pitch, the umpires called for the tarp when a gust of wind blew through Great American Ball Park with Burnett warming up. Several members of the grounds crew were blown off their feet while wrestling the tarp into place.
Burnett had a rough time getting re-started, allowing four runs right away. Three of them were set up by Mercer’s fielding error at second base. Votto got his 500th career RBI on the error, Brandon Phillips singled home a run, Cozart hit a sacrifice fly and Devin Mesoraco doubled for a 4-0 lead.
Latos struck out to end the nine-batter inning — an hour and a half after he’d thrown his last pitch. Then, just like Burnett, Latos struggled to find his touch. Garrett Jones homered and Cozart’s errant throw at shortstop let in a run in the second.
McCutchen hit a solo homer in the fourth, his third homer in his last four games. Eleven of his 12 homers have been solos. The Pirates have five homers in the first two games of the series, all solo shots.
Burnett didn’t allow another run until the sixth, when he walked Votto with the bases loaded on his 109th and final pitch.
Cincinnati’s Jack Hannahan and Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte were hit by pitches, making it 21 batters plunked during the teams’ season series. It’s the most for any season series in the majors.
NOTES: LH Jeff Locke will start the final game of the series on Sunday. Locke had to miss his last scheduled start because of a sore back. Manager Clint Hurdle said Locke had no problems after throwing on Friday. ... McCutchen was on his way to a triple with one out in the seventh when he lost his footing and fell halfway between second and third, getting tagged out when he got up. ... An NFL Films crew followed Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins around the field for his ceremonial pitch to Reds third baseman Todd Frazier. The Bengals will be featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” next month.