Reds face Pirates with chance to win first series of season

The Cincinnati Reds will try to capture their first series of the season while the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates will attempt to end their rain-disrupted road trip on a winning note as the clubs meet in the series finale on Sunday.

The teams split Saturday’s doubleheader after Friday night’s rainout. The Pirates won the nightcap 8-5 for just their third win in 10 games while the Reds snapped a nine-game losing streak in the first game but enter Sunday having dropped 21 of their past 23 games.

Brandon Drury has been one of the few bright spots for the Reds, who are 4-23 overall. He was 5-for-8 in the two games Saturday, including a three-run homer in the nightcap as the Cincinnati rally fell short. He leads the team with five homers.

“Yeah, that’s great (personally), but this is very frustrating for all of us. I still think we can get hot and win some games,” Drury said after the loss.

The Reds will send right-hander Tyler Mahle (1-4, 7.01 ERA) to the mound on Sunday.

Mahle, Cincinnati’s Opening Day starter, is making his team-leading seventh start of the season. He has two starts of at least five innings on a staff that is the only one in the majors without a six-inning start in 2022.

Mahle was 3-1 with a 4.00 ERA in five starts against the Pirates in 2021 and will make his 12th lifetime start against Pittsburgh. He is 4-4 with a 3.94 ERA in his previous 11 starts against Pittsburgh.

The Pirates will counter with right-hander Zach Thompson (1-3, 9.39), who will make his fifth start and sixth appearance of the season. Thompson has lost three of his four starts.

Thompson returns to the rotation after making his first relief appearance in Wednesday night’s nightcap to the split doubleheader in Detroit. He threw a scoreless inning to earn his first win as a Pirate.

Lifetime against the Reds, Thompson is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in two career starts, both in 2021 as a member of the Miami Marlins.

The Pirates placed Roberto Perez on the injured list immediately following Saturday’s first game after the catcher hurt his left hamstring rounding second base in the eighth inning of the 9-2 loss to the Reds. To take Perez’s place, the Pirates promoted Michael Perez from Triple-A Indianapolis.

What complicated matters for the Pirates was the sixth-inning ejection of their other catcher, Andrew Knapp, for arguing balls and strikes from the dugout. That meant when Perez was injured, infielder Josh VanMeter had to serve as the emergency catcher in the eighth as the Reds scored seven runs.

“It happened really fast,” VanMeter said. “Pitchers did a really good job working with me. Didn’t bounce too many balls, which made it easy. (Stinks) that we lost and it unfolded that way, but it’s part of the gig. Just got to step up.”

Knapp regretted the ejection after the game.

“It’s a horrible feeling,” he added. “I feel terrible. Shouldn’t happen. I feel bad for the guys who came into the game to pitch. I feel bad for Josh, the whole team. It falls on me to be smarter than that. There’s really no excuse.”

The Reds were expecting to activate left-hander Nick Lodolo off the injured list in time for Saturday’s doubleheader, but that plan was scratched Friday when his latest exam indicated his lower-back injury had not recovered sufficiently.

“It’s definitely concerning that he can’t make a start,” Reds manager David Bell said. “I have not been told that it’s a long-term issue. Anything that keeps a major league player out for any amount of time is obviously concerning. I don’t know exactly what that means for when we can expect him back.”

–Field Level Media