All of a sudden, the Reds have perked up when playing the top two teams in their own Central Division.
The Reds hit a trio of three-run home runs and Brandon Phillips set a career high with seven RBI on two home runs as the Reds pounded Pittsburgh with a 15-5 victory.
"We/re playing good baseball right now," said Phillips, who was the first player in baseball history to have four hits, two home runs, seven RBI and two stolen bases in the same game. "We're trying to finish up strong. We still believe in ourselves. I'm glad you told me about being the first one to do that. Willie Mays didn't do it? Hank Aaron? I'm really feeling myself right now."
Marlon Byrd unloaded a three-run home run off A.J. Burnett in the first inning to stake David Holmberg, making his first start of the season, to a 3-0 lead. Ivan De Jesus Jr, who is giving Todd Frazier a rest, singled. Joey Votto singled to set the table for Byrd's 17th long fly.
Holmberg was reached for a long home run by Pedro Alvarez but his new teammates weren't finished with Burnett.
Votto doubled to open the third. Byrd sent Votto to third with a single up the middle. Jay Bruce hit a sacrifice fly to drive in a run for the fifth straight game (10 total).
Billy Hamilton started trouble for Burnett in the fourth by dodging a tag try by firstbaseman Alvarez. Hamilton stole second with Brandon Phillips batting. Burnett, who once intentionally drilled Billy the Marlin in Florida as a member of the Marlins' team, hit Hamilton squarely in the back on a pickoff attempt. Hamilton with, empathy for Billy the Marlin, was in pain and didn't advance when the throw squirted into centerfield. Hamilton outran the pain with his 49th steal of the year at third and trotted home on Phillips' single past a drawn-in secondbaseman.
Holmberg allowed base runners in the third, fourth and fifth. The Pirates found no treasure at home plate. Holmberg struck out Andrew McCutchen looking with a man on in the third to end the inning. He struck out Alvarez swinging to end the fourth and coaxed a double play groundball from Starling Marte with two on to finish the fifth.
"He used his defense and commanded the strike zone," Bryan Price said. "He gave us six productive innings."
Cincinnati finished off Burnett in the fifth. Tucker Barnhart was hit by a pitch with one out. Holmberg pulled back from a bunt stance and drilled a hit-and-run single to right. It was his first Major League hit. Hamilton hit a one hopper to Alvarez, who was moved from thirdbase because he was erratic with his throws to first, who threw the ball into leftfield. Barnhart scored. The Reds had runners at second and third.
"Burnett has been tough on us in the past," Price said. "We made him throw pitches and hit with a lot of men on base. It was great that everybody contributed to the offense."
Deolis Guerra relieved Burnett and promptly surrendered Phillips' sixth home run of the year. De Jesus Jr. walked. Votto reached base for the fourth time in the game with another walk. Bruce doubled over McCutchen's head, driving in two more runs to make it 11-1.
"I just tried to treat it as just another game," said Holmberg, who had to wait his turn. "Whatever team you play for you try to just do your job. It was pretty cool to come back. Everybody greeted me. It was a lot easier to pitch with a lead too. The hit was pretty cool. I didn't get a lot of A,B's down there."
Hamilton singled for his second time in the game. Phillips victimized Guerra again with a 390 ft. home run. It was his 11th career multi-home run game and set a new career-high with seven RBI.
Pittsburgh scored three runs off Ryan Mattheus after the first two were retired in the seventh.
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The Reds took advantage of Anthony Bastardo's wildness scoring two runs on on a hit batter and three walks.
Keyvius Sampson made his Major League debut for the Reds in the Pirates' eighth, striking out two of the three batters he faced.
Sampson didn't find out until 3:00 that he was being recalled. He ran into traffic from Louisville and arrived at 6:15.
'I didn't get to play toss or anything," Sampson said. "I got dressed and went straight to the bullpen. Words can't describe what it felt like. I wouldn't have written it up any other way. My heart was pounding. I tried to control my breathing. I was just worried about throwing my first pitch for a strike. I'm glad we had a big lead."
Jaff (pronounced Jeff) Decker became the first position player to pitch for the Pirates as he entered the game in the ninth inning. He pitched out of a second and third no out jam to put up a scoreless inning.
Pedro Villarreal mopped up and closed shop for the Reds.
Professionally edited by ML Schirmer
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