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I am a freelance writer. I've covered the Cincinnati Reds, Bengals and others since 1992. I have a background in sales as well. I've sold consumer electronics, advertising and consumer package goods for companies ranging from the now defunct Circuit City to Procter&Gamble. I have worked as a stats operator for Xavier University, the University of Cincinnati, the College of Mount St. Joe and Colerain High School.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Tucker Barnhart Homers Reds Bullpen Raises To Challenge

Tucker Barnhart's first home run of the season off John Niese in the seventh to snap a 2-2 tie and the Reds beleagured bullpen held the lead in a 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

It was the last of three solo home runs and the first time in his professional career he'd hit one righthanded.

"It is fun hitting home runs but it's not my game. I just squared that one up," Barnhart said.  "It is more important that it was a big hit to help us win.

Welcome back Cozart.  Zack Cozart had Sunday off but was at the plate as a pinch hitter when Billy Hamilton was thrown out stealing secondbase.

After Dan Straily, retired the Pirates in order in the first inning, Cozart led off the bottom with his sixth career and second leadoff home run of the season off John Niese.

A pitcher's duel ensued between Straily and Niese.

Straily cracked first after allowing two harmless singles and two walks in five scoreless innings.  Andrew McCutchen led off the sixth with his second hit.  Gregory Polanco walked.  Starling Marte's sharp single to left loaded the bases.  Straily dug in.  Francisco Cervelli hit a sacrifice fly to deep center to tie the game ans send Polanco to third.  Jung Ho Kang's slow roller to shortstop put the Pirates ahead.

"I was just trying to get him (Cervelli) to chase a pitch up.  I was trying to get a swing and miss or have him hit it on the ground. I've got a lot of ground balls on those.  Damage control comes into play  It gave up the lead but kept us in the ballgame. Cervelli hit it deep enough to get the runner to third but the double play was still in order.  You don't want hard contact but Kang didn't hit it hard enough for the double play."

Joey Votto hit his fifth home run to the seats down the left field line to tie the score.

J.C Ramirez relieved Straily to start the seventh.

Barnhart's last home run was on May 27, 2015. He had 270 at-bats between home runs.

"Tucker was frustrated with his righthanded swing last year.  He hit two balls on the screws before he hit the home run. He's a natural righthanded hitter but he's had more success from the left side,"Bryan Price said.

"I was frustrated with my swing from the right side.  I put in a lot of work from that side getting it to be the same as my swing from the left side," Barnhart said. "Since I've been in pro ball, I hit one righthanded in spring training but this is the first I've hit in pro ball that counted.  I have to take double the swings as a pinch hitter but I enjoy it or I would have quit a long time ago."

J.C. Ramirez, Blake Wood and Tony Cingrani blanked the Pirates over the last three innings.  Cingrani worked around a leadoff double in the ninth for his second save.

The Reds had good defense to hold the lead.  With the tying run on second in the eighth Cozart made a diving stop by Marte and threw him out on a close play.  In the ninth after Kang's double, Cozart made another tough play on a ball hit by Josh Harrison.  The Reds pulled the infield in and Brandon Phillips fielded Jordy Mercer's hot smash on the short hop to keep Sean Rodriguez the pinch runner at third.  Cingrani got pinch hitter David Freese to fly out to deep center that Hamilton ran down.

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