Marte’s slam lifts Bucs
CINCINNATI – Starling Marte managed to stop his eyes from watering when he came to bat for the final time on a frigid, blustery night. Peering through the opening in his black facemask, he swung away at the second pitch he got.
Without even looking, he knew it was gone.
Marte hit his first career grand slam in the eighth inning on Friday night, connecting off new Cincinnati Reds closer J.J. Hoover for a 6-5 victory that kept the Pittsburgh Pirates unbeaten.
The Pirates improved to 4-0 for the first time since 2003 by taking advantage of Cincinnati’s unsettled back of the bullpen. The Reds lost for the first time.
Marte’s homer was the first by the Pirates this season. As he came to bat, his teammates noted that the timing couldn’t be better.
“We talked about it before he went up, that it would be a good time for the first home run as a team,” shortstop Jordy Mercer said. “We started screaming. Everybody in the dugout was yelling.”
Down 5-2, Pittsburgh loaded the bases in the eighth inning off Ross Ohlendorf, who hit a batter, walked another and gave up an infield hit with two outs. Hoover (0-1) came on for his first save opportunity since replacing closer Aroldis Chapman, who was traded to the Yankees in the offseason.
Marte had the facemask pulled up over his nose to stay warm as he hit Hoover’s second pitch into the stands in left field.
“The night had been a little tough because of the hail and because it caused my eyes to get watery,” Marte said through the team’s translator. “We needed that big hit. I’m just glad it was me.”
Hoover was only 1-of-7 in save chances last year when Chapman was unavailable. He’s getting the first shot at filing the closer’s role.
“It was just a slider that hung up,” Hoover said. “I didn’t execute that pitch to the best of my ability and he got it.”
Ryan Vogelsong (1-0) gave up a pair of runs – one earned – in two innings. Mark Melancon pitched the ninth for his second save in as many chances.
It was a sloppy game on a night with bursts of rain, sleet and snow. The Reds had three errors – two by third baseman Eugenio Suarez – and the Pirates had a pair of them, including a throwing error by catcher Francisco Cervelli that led to a run.
Brandon Phillips was back in Cincinnati’s starting lineup after missing two games with a stomach illness. He drove in a pair of runs with a homer and a sacrifice fly off Francisco Liriano. He also scored on Vogelsong’s wild pitch in the seventh for a 5-2 lead.
Alfredo Simon made his first start since returning to the Reds, who traded him to Detroit for Suarez after the 2014 season. He went five innings and gave up a pair of runs, including Liriano’s RBI double. The left-hander also drove in the first run of the season in the major leagues and has three hits, one more than Joey Votto.
Liriano at bat
In his last 15 starts, Liriano is hitting .353 (12 for 34) with three doubles, a homer and nine RBIs.
Pirates: Marte, David Freese and John Jaso were hit by pitches, making it 36 Pirate batters plunked by Reds pitchers in the last four seasons. Liriano hit Jay Bruce in the fourth inning, the 37th Reds batter plunked by a Pirate over the same span – the most in the majors.
Reds: RHP Anthony DeSclafani won’t start on Sunday as planned. The Reds want to give him more time to recover from a strained left oblique. … RHP Jon Moscot – one of four Reds starters on the DL – will pitch for Triple-A Louisville on April 12 and could be activated to start on the 17th in St. Louis. He had shoulder surgery last June.
Pirates: Gerrit Cole makes his first start of the season. He’s 0-4 in six career starts against Cincinnati with a 5.23 ERA. He went 0-3 in four starts against the Reds last year, giving up 13 earned runs in 19 innings.
Reds: Raisel Iglesias is 1-1 career against the Pirates with a 6.52 ERA, giving up 10 hits and seven runs in 9 innings.