Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) sizing up the competition and making some kids happy along the way.Credit: Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

Reflections on the Reds Weekend in Pittsburgh

For the first time in two years I had the privilege of visiting beautiful PNC Park in Pittsburgh, where I have lived for the past 20 some years, to see the Reds and enjoy the benefits of living near one of the nicest venues in baseball.  I attended Saturday’s game in hopes of seeing Mat Latos pitch but Dusty Baker decided to play musical chairs with the starting rotation and I wound up with Mike Leake taking the baseball for the Redlegs.  I like Mike, but he has not inspired a lot of confidence this season so I approached the game with a tinge of trepidation.  But let’s go back to the beginning of my Reds experience:

It starts with the ticket purchasing experience.  I am a member of the American Automobile Association, AAA, so I got to enter into their discount pricing program and they offered a phone number for a gentleman by the name of Mark Niskach in the Pirates ticket office.  I called the number given and it is Mark’s direct line and I explain what I am looking for and leave my number.  Around 5:30 PM that night Mark returns my call and sells me a box seat in Section 108 of PNC Park about 25 rows behind First Base.  Perfect seats.  I am on the end of the row which always involves jumping up and down several times but it is a minor inconvenience for a seat with a wonderful view.  The cost of the seat is always interesting to me as I am a bit of a cheapskate.  But lets look at this in context.  Similar seats at Wrigley Field cost $104 to see the Reds on a Saturday.  At Great American Ball Park the cost would be $45.00 for an Infield Box seat, at PNC the cost is $35.00 and with the AAA discount it is a mere $25.  In addition, it is a Fireworks night and with this seat I get a complementary Roberto Clemente #21 Jersey.  So to recap, a very engaging member of the Pirates ticket office staff sells me a fantastic seat for the game and the following fireworks show as well as a nice jersey commemorating Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente.  What a bargain!

I arrive at the game taking advantage of a wonderful option in Pittsburgh.  If you park near the stadium in Pittsburgh it can cost up to $20.  If you park next to a Pittsburgh shopping and dining destination known as Station Square for $7 you can by a $10 round trip ticket on the Gateway Clipper shuttle and have a short boat ride that deposits you at the Right Field gate of the ballpark.

Visitors batting practice was underway when I arrived and I enjoyed watching the Reds players have some fun around the cage.  Joey Votto thrilled the crowd around the dugout by signing autographs for around 20 minutes.  Ryan Hanigan and Logan Ondrusekalso joined in briefly.  He focused on the kids vying for his attention and Joey made the night for a number of young fans.

The ballpark is spectacular with a beautiful view of the Pittsburgh skyline and I was treated to spectacular, if uncharacteristic, Pittsburgh weather.

The game settled into a pitchers duel and I won’t bore you with the details.  Leake pitched a solid game his only bobble coming when he surrendered a double to Jose Tabata followed by a home run off the bat of Reds killer Neil Walker.  It was Walker’s first home run of the season but he always seems to find a way to stick it to the Reds.

James McDonald pitched a solid game assisted by the Reds lineup who seemed unwilling to engage the enemy.  The first two batters of the game set the tone.  First Zack Cozart, then Drew Stubbs both watched strike three.  In all McDonald struck out 6 in the first 3 innings and 7 overall.  He allowed just 6 hits.  He was good, but the Pirates defense was better.  Clint Barmes, in particular,  may not be much of a hitter but he did an outstanding job defensively.  Pittsburgh burned the Reds with 4 double plays, though one was more a bad call than anything else.

The Reds had opportunities but they seemed lifeless.  The example that best exemplified this occurred in the 4th inning. Joey Votto led off the inning already 1-1 with a weak dribbler to short that Barmes could not field quickly enough.  In the 4th Joey faced a full count and he laced a ball down the third base line.  Joey watched the ball drop in fair territory, and then he started running to first.  Luckily, the ball bounced into the stands for a ground rule double because otherwise he would have been stuck at first.  Pete Rose would not have approved.  Brandon Phillips grounded out to the pitcher moving Joey to third.  Jay Bruce provided the games first controversy when he grounded up the line to first base.  Casey McGehee fielded the ball and stepped on the bag then fired it home to Rob Barajas who had his foot on the plate.  Votto slid behind Barajas and was called out.  The problem was, and according to others including Bob Walk, the Pirates broadcaster, Barajas never applied the tag.  This is a big deal in the outcome of a one run game.

In all,  the the Reds lost against a weak team in a game they probably could have one.  The Pirates defense was the difference with assists from home plate umpire Ron Kulpa, Neil Walker, and Alex Pressley (who also contributed a home run).  The Reds won the series and in fact are now 5-3-1 in series competition.  They last lost a series April 16-18 when they visited the St. Louis Cardinals.  After an inconsistent start this team seems to be coming together.  I wish I could have seen a win but I am happy this team seems to be coming together.

My last word is this, Pittsburgh is a wonderful place to see a baseball game and a wonderful city to visit.  Oh and on September 29th the Reds will again be in town on a Saturday night with fireworks on the menu.  Maybe the next time the Reds bats can offer a few fireworks of their own!

Follow me on Twitter @JohnHeitz

Tags: Brandon Phillips Casey McGehee Cincinnati Reds Clint Barmes Drew Stubbs James McDonald Jay Bruce Joey Votto Jose Tabata Logan Ondrusek Mat Latos Mike Leake Neil Walker Pete Rose Ryan Hanigan Zack Cozart

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