Colin Moran might have been seeking fastballs more than revenge against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The red-bearded Cincinnati Reds first baseman ended up getting both in the course of two swings.
Designated for assignment by the Pirates in late November, Moran made them pay with a pair of home runs. His grand slam in the sixth inning gave the Reds a commanding lead, and his two-run shot in the eighth put the finishing touches on his former team.
Sparked by Moran’s six RBIs and his third career multi-homer game, the Reds rolled to a 7-3 win Sunday afternoon at Great American Ball Park to take two games out of the three-game series.
The Reds (5-23) entered the series with the worst record in baseball and riding a nine-game losing streak amid a rash of injuries. After Friday’s game was rained out, the Reds took two of three from the Pirates.
The Pirates suffered an even bigger loss when starting catcher Roberto Perez strained his left hamstring in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader and was placed on the 10-day injured list. They selected the contract of Michael Perez from Triple-A Indianapolis, and his promotion paid quick dividends.
Shelton said Roberto Perez is expected to miss “significant time,” though he added the Pirates haven’t made a decision on whether to move him to the 60-day IL.
“It’s challenging,” Shelton said. “A guy that’s an integral part of what we’re doing on the pitching side. To lose him to an injury, it’s going to be a tough blow for us.”
Michael Perez softened the blow with his first at-bat, hitting a two-run homer 396 feet to right-center off Tyler Mahle in the second inning to give the Pirates a 2-0 lead. It was the only hit allowed by Mahle, who struck out six and walked three in five innings.
With the Pirates still searching for their first win by a starting pitcher in their 27th game, it looked like that streak would end when right-hander Zach Thompson had six strikeouts without a walk and allowed two hits (one on a bunt) on 79 pitches in five innings.
“It was nice to get out there and get my team in a winning situation the best I can,” Thompson said.
Thompson said he was feeling “crummy” Saturday night and early Sunday before taking an IV and some medication for hydration. Just 90 minutes before first pitch, Shelton wasn’t sure whether Thompson would be able to play and contemplated making it a bullpen game.
“We were hoping we were going to get three innings out of him. That he went five was pretty admirable on his part,” Shelton said. “He came in after the fifth, and he could barely stand. He was in a tough spot. I give him a ton of credit.”
That’s when the Pirates turned to Dillon Peters. He gave up a bloop single to Brandon Drury, then walked Mike Moustakas and Tyler Stephenson to load the bases. Pinch hitter Tommy Pham drew a walk to score Drury and cut it to 2-1.
“When you can’t find the zone, you put yourself in a situation where you’ve got the bases loaded,” Shelton said, “and we’ve got to try to get outs.”
Heath Hembree replaced Peters and struck out Kyle Farmer. That’s when Moran came to the plate, one day after being robbed of a home run at the fence by rookie right fielder Jack Suwinski in the first inning of the second game of the doubleheader.
The Pirates designated Moran for assignment in late November, when they opted to sign Yoshi Tsutsugo to a one-year, $4 million contract instead of going to arbitration with Moran. Moran signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Reds in mid-March and was starting at first base with six-time All-Star Joey Votto on the covid-19 list.
Moran sent Hembree’s 2-1 fastball 400 feet over the right-field fence, giving the Reds a 5-2 lead. It was his fifth career grand slam, the first four coming for the Pirates.
“We got the punchout and we threw two fastballs right down the middle to Colin, and he hit them both out of the ballpark,” Shelton said. “We just have to execute pitches.”
Bryan Reynolds answered with his fourth homer — and second in as many days against Dauri Moreta, who opened the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader — with a 390-foot shot down the right-field line to cut it to 5-3 in the eighth.
With one out in the bottom of the eighth, Chase De Jong hit Farmer with a pitch. That brought Moran to bat, and he turned on a 2-0 fastball and drove it 404 feet to right for a 7-3 lead.
“We just didn’t execute pitches to Colin in two of his hot spots,” Shelton said.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .
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