PITTSBURGH – For a couple of seconds, Reds relief pitcher Austin Brice stood with his hands on his hips while looking out toward left field.
As Brice stared in the distance, Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison was circling the bases during a two-run home run and celebratory fireworks sounded.
The Pirates smacked three home runs Saturday and the Reds were dealt a 6-2 loss at PNC Park in front of a crowd of 27,479.
Reds right-hander Luis Castillo surrendered a pair of home runs to Colin Moran and Elias Diaz in his five-inning outing. He didn’t have his normal electricity with his fastball and changeup, recording two strikeouts.
Castillo has allowed a National League-high 17 homers this season, including seven in his last five starts.
“Every time I go out there, I give up like one or two homers,” Castillo said through interpreter Julio Morillo. “I really don’t know what’s happening right now. I’m just going to keep working in the bullpen and try to do my best.”
When Castillo struggled at the beginning of the season, he worked on his arm angle between starts with pitching coach Danny Darwin.
Reds manager Jim Riggleman said he thought some of Castillo’s pitches were coming out flat Saturday, but wasn’t sure if that was related to his arm angle.
“We don’t have any question in our mind, he’s going to be a good Major League pitcher,” Riggleman said. “But we’re dealing with results here. If he needs to do something with his arm angle or whatever, Danny Darwin and our pitching guys are going to know a lot more about that than I am.”
Moran, the Pirates’ third baseman, hit the go-ahead home run in the bottom of the third inning. With two outs, he whacked 3-1 fastball into the outfield berm beyond the 399-foot mark in center field. Billy Hamilton leaped at the wall, but it was out of his reach.
In the fourth inning, Diaz pulled a pitch into the left-field seats.
Castillo was pulled for a pinch-hitter in the top of the sixth inning, allowing three runs on six hits in five innings.
“Luis continues to do a good job,” Riggleman said. “He’s battling. He’s growing as a pitcher. He gave up three; that still gives us a chance. We just didn’t do anything offensively to allow him to stay in there.”
The Reds scored only one run against Pirates (35-35) right-hander Ivan Nova, who gave up five hits in six innings. Eugenio Suarez drilled a full-count fastball over the fence in left-center field for a solo homer. The ball fell into the Reds’ bullpen, a couple of feet from assistant pitching coach Ted Power.
A few pitches earlier, Suarez crushed a pitch that had the distance of a home run but went wide of the foul pole.
It was Suarez’s team-leading 13th home run of the season, tying the game at 1-all in the second inning.
For the second straight game, the Reds couldn’t deliver a big hit with runners on base. Billy Hamilton grounded out to first base with the bases loaded in the third inning.
The Reds, who dropped their record to 25-45, were 0-for-7 at the plate with runners in scoring position, which followed Friday’s 0-for-12 output in the same situation.
“We didn’t situational hit last night or today,” Riggleman said. “We got some big hits in Kansas City; we didn’t get a lot of hits. We just have to get it going.”
Reds rookie Brandon Dixon hit his first career home run in the top of the ninth inning, pulling a fastball over the left-field wall.
As an early Father’s Day present, Dixon planned on giving the ball to his dad.
“It’s actually my father’s birthday,” Dixon said. “I’ll probably send it back as a gift.”
The Pirates pulled away in the bottom of the sixth inning. Brice gave up a leadoff double to Pirates first baseman Josh Bell. After issuing an intentional walk to face the pitcher’s spot, Pirates pinch-hitter David Freese hit an RBI single to right.
Harrison, a Cincinnati native, followed with a two-run homer – his fourth of the season.
Glasnow recorded his second hold of the season Friday, hurling a scoreless seventh inning against Cincinnati.
Pitching for the first time since June 7, when he threw 37 pitches for the second time in three days, Glasnow retired the Reds on nine pitches. He continues to build into a high-leverage situational option. The righty warmed up in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s win in Arizona after closer Felipe Vazquez ran into some trouble, but he wasn’t called upon. General manager Neal Huntington said during his most recent radio show that it would be unfair to ask the team’s sixth and seventh starters, Steven Brault and Glasnow, to serve as starting pitchers “when you have a need,” because they’ve thrown out of the bullpen for most of 2018. At some point Glasnow will likely get another chance to start, but for now the team needs him out of the pen.
The Pittsburgh Pirates, jockeying for first place in the National League Central the first several weeks of the season, go into a weekend series against Cincinnati looking at the possibility of spiraling into the cellar conversation with the Reds.
Pittsburgh (33-35) is eight games up on Cincinnati (25-43) but has fallen to fourth in the division and created some separation from the top three clubs by going 6-18 in its past 24 games.
The Reds come to PNC Park with a three-game winning streak.
Cincinnati right-hander Matt Harvey (1-4, 5.97 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Pirates right-hander Chad Kuhl (4-4, 3.95) on Friday.
Both teams had a day off Thursday.
The Pirates are coming off a 5-4 win on Wednesday at Arizona that concluded a 2-4 road trip. Friday’s game launches a 10-game, 10-day homestand.
They have been plagued in recent games by a plethora of problems, from defensive lapses to baserunning blunders, blown leads to offensive droughts.
“We’re going to get home and figure a lot of things out,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said.
Shortstop Jordy Mercer, who was 7-for-17 with a homer and four RBIs on the road trip, believes the Pirates can turn things around.
“It’s the ebb and flow of the season,” he said. “You’re going to get into some of these situations where things don’t go your way.
“We’re able to relax a little bit now. We got a win. Hopefully, we can scratch another one out and roll with some momentum, especially at home with a 10-game homestand. Hopefully, we’ll get some momentum at home and carry it into the next road trip.”
The Reds are coming off a 7-0 win on Wednesday at Kansas City and are looking to get their rotation into a prolonged groove.
They have gotten back-to-back quality starts after going 15 games without one. During the winning streak, their rotation has a 1.40 ERA after ranking last in the major leagues with a 5.68 ERA.
“You get that, you’re going to win ballgames. You’re going to win your share anyway,” Cincinnati manager Jim Riggleman said of the recent improvement.
It falls on Harvey, who was acquired from the New York Mets on May 8 and will be making is seventh start with Cincinnati, to continue that. The Reds won in Harvey’s first three starts, then lost in his past three.
Last Friday, Harvey gave up three homers in his first three innings against St. Louis in a 7-6, 10-inning loss, then settled down in his subsequent three innings.
“That one had more well-thrown pitches than any of the games that he’s pitched … but the select few bad pitches he made really hurt him,” Riggleman said.
Harvey is 2-1 with a 4.76 ERA in six career starts against Pittsburgh.
Kuhl has allowed seven runs in his past four starts, totaling 23 1/3 innings. Most recently, he gave up three runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings last Friday in a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs.
In four career starts against the Reds, Kuhl is 1-1 with a 2.78 ERA.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, plagued by injuries among their starters, will give left-hander Caleb Ferguson his first major league start Wednesday in the second contest of a three-game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park. Ferguson, 21, has made a somewhat meteoric rise through the minor leagues