Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price told anybody who would listen closely all winter long that he planned to use his bullpen in an uncoventional manner.
On Monday night in Pittsburgh, Price kept his word and it helped the Reds scoot to a 7-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in PNC Park.
With starter Brandon Finnegan on the precipice of giving away a five-run lead after two innings, Price called upon his best relief pitcher, Michael Lorenen, out of the bullpen to put a muzzle on the Pittsburgh Pirates.
CONVENTIONALLY SPEAKING, Lorenzen is a set-up guy in the eighth or a closer in the ninth. But Price could sense the disintegration of an early lead and brought Lorenzen into the game in the third inning into a seemingly impossible situation.
The Pirates had the bases loaded with no outs in the third inning with one run already home. Lorezen retired the side, 1-2-3, without a run scoring.
Then he retired the next six, nine in a row for his night, to preserve the Reds victory.
LORENZEN WAS NEEDED because Finnegan was off the mark from the beginning.
It was a near miracle that the Pirates only scored one run against him because he put nine of the first 15 Pirates he faced on base.
—He put the first two on in the first inning, then got a fly ball and a strikeout.
—He put the first three on base in the second inning and escaped with two strikeouts and a fly ball.
—When he put the first three on base in the third, the magic was over. He walked the fourth hitter, forcing in a run.
And that’s when Price made his decisive decision to bring in Lorenzen.
REMEMBER THE SONG, ‘Wild Man,’ by Kate Bush? It wasn’t about Pittsburgh starter Tyler Glasnow, but it could have been.
The Pirates No 1 pitching prospect, a 23-year-old righthander, gave up a leadoff single to Billy Hamilton. Then with one out, he walked four straight batters on 3-and-2 counts, two in a row that forced in two runs.
In the second inning he gave up singles to Hamilton and Jose Peraza. After a double steal, he gave up a two-run single to Adam Duvall and a walk to Eugenio Suarez.
His day, short as it was, was done — 1 2/3 innings, five runs, four hits, five walks, one strikeout. And the Reds stole five bases in the first two innings. He threw 64 pitches, only 33 strikes.
UNFORTUNATELY FOR THE REDS, Finnegan wasn’t much better. After pitching seven scoreless innings against the Phillies in his first game, Finnegan couldn’t last long enough to qualify for the win.
His day, short as it was, lasted two-plus innings — one run, four hits, four walks, four strikeouts. His pitch count nearly matched Glasnow’s — 64 pitches, 34 strikes.
Eugenio Suarez homered leading off the fifth and the Reds have hit at least one home run in each of their first seven games. Scooter Gennett, playing in place of Zack Cozart (sore wrist) homered in the eighth to make it 7-1.
AND THE REDS BULLPEN continues to be nearly impeccable. After Lorenzen’s three perfect innings, Cody Reed followed him with three perfect innings. And he struck out the side in his third inning.
Willy Peralta finished it off in the ninth with another 1-2-3 effort, meaning from the third through the ninth the Reds bullpen retired 21 straight, nine via strikeouts.
So the Reds are off to a 5-and-2 start and sit ceremoniously atop the National League Central standings — with only 155 games to go.