A.J. Burnett and Jason Grilli combined on a six-hitter, and Marlon Byrd and Pedro Alvarez used their bats to propel the offensive as the Pittsburgh Pirates (92-68) defeated the Reds 4-1 on Friday night in the first game of a season-ending, three-game series in Cincinnati.
The two teams will meet each other again on Tuesday in a one-game wild card playoff, and the Pirates are now one win away from becoming the host of that postseason game. With the Reds (90-70) trailing the Bucs by two games, Cincinnati must win both of this weekend’s remaining contests to be Tuesday’s host through winning the head-to-head season series with Pittsburgh.
Burnett (10-11; 3.30 ERA) threw 99 pitches over eight innings, allowing just one run and five hits, striking out six batters and walking only one. Grilli gave up a leadoff single in the ninth inning, but a double play helped his earn his 33rd save of the season.
Meanwhile, Byrd slammed three of the Pirates’ six hits, and Alvarez slammed his 35th home run, driving in his 98th and 99th RBI’s of the year. The Pirates loaded the bases without a hit in the top of the third inning with Starling Marte being hit by a pitch, and Andrew McCutchen and Justin Morneau both drawing walks. Byrd followed with a two-run single. After Todd Frazier homered in the third for the Reds’ only run, Byrd led off the sixth inning with a double, setting the stage for the Alvarez homer.
Cincinnati starter Homer Bailey, who was 8-2 against Pittsburgh over the last five years, lasted just five-plus innings. Bailey (10-11; 3.49 ERA) threw 95 pitches, surrendered four runs on four hits, walked four hitters and struck out three.
In the middle game of the series on Saturday, Pittsburgh is expected to start Charlie Morton (7-4) against the Reds’ Bronson Arroyo.