Robert Stephenson provided a sniff of what the Cincinnati Reds hope he is all about Wednesday night in PNC Park.
After walking the population of a small village in his previous start in Miami, Stephenson was spot-on against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Reds won, but Stephenson was not credited with the win, even though he pitched 5 2/3 innings and didn’t give up a run while he was on the mound.
Stephenson, the Reds No. 1 draft pick in 2012, held the Pirates to no runs while he was in the game, 5 2/3 innings, on two hits while walking only two and striking out four.
UNFORTUNATELY FOR HIM, when he began the sixth inning with a two-run lead, Starling Marte dropped a bunt to open the inning. Stephenson dove in an attempt to catch it on the fly and missed, landing on his right shoulder, his pitching shoulder.
After a few test pitches he stayed in the game and retired the next two hitters, although he threw a wild pitch.
After he retired Andrew McCutchen for the second out, manager Bryan Price decided to take him out. He wanted a veteran relief pitcher to face Josh Bell, said in his post-game interview he didn’t like the Stephenson-Bell match-up.
And it cost Stephenson a chance for a win. His replacement, Michael Lorenzen, gave up back-to-back hits that tied the game, 2-2.
BUT ROOKIE JESSE WINKER saved the day in the top of the seventh. He was facing Joaquin Benoit, whom the Pirates just acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies.
So he was making his first appearance for the Pirates and retired Billy Hamilton on a popped bunt attempt.
Winker, though, called up two days ago from Class AAA Louisville, hit his second home run in two nights, this one to the top row of the right field stands to give the Reds a 3-2 lead.
STEPHENSON’S TWO WALKS were to the same batter, David Freese. He walked Freese on four pitches to lead the second inning, then retired nine in a row before walking Freese again.
But that was it — two walks in 5 2/3 innings after issuing seven walks in 4 1/3 innings in Miami five days ago.
Stephenson started shakily in the first, three hard-hit balls, but settled in after that. Starling Marte opened the inning with a high, hard-hit ball to center but was short of the wall. Adam Frazier lined hard to right field and Winker made a diving catch to prevent a double. Andrew McCutchen singled, but Stephenson stopped a hard-driven ball to the mound by Josh Bell to end the inning.
LORENZEN PITCHED A 1-2-3 seventh and Raisel Iglesias replaced him in he eighth and ran into a problem. But he worked out of it.
After giving up a walk and a single to Andrew McCutchen with one out, Iglesias retired Josh Bell on a shallow fly to left and induced a grounder to the mound from David Freese to preserve the 3-2 lead.
Iglesias was given a pin cushion in the top of the ninth when Adam Duvall hit a two-out home run, his 24th, to make it 5-2. Iglesias issued a two-out walk in the ninth but retired Jose Osuna to end it and annex his 18th save.
OTHER THAN THE HOME RUNS by Winker and Duvall, the Reds struggled offensively. Their first run came in the fourth inning on back-to-back singles by Winker and Joey Votto to open the inning. But all they got was a sacrifice fly from Duvall, who drove in three of the five runs. Duvall leads the team in RBI with 75.
The second run came in the sixth on a bases loaded walk to Tucker Barnhart.
The Reds might want to petition the league to have all opponents wear Pittsburgh uniforms. The Reds are now 8-and-1 this season against the Pirates. And they are on a three-game winning streak, pushing their record on this road trip from a 0-6 start to 3-6 with a game left in Pittsburgh Thursday night.
MANAGER BRYAN PRICE announced before Wednesday’s game a pitching switch. Tim Adleman, Friday’s scheduled starter against the St. Louis Cardinals in Great American Ball Park, was demoted to the bullpen.
His place will be taken by Asher Wojciechowski, at least for one start. Disabled pitcher Scott Feldman is close to activation and could be ready by next week.
Wojo will face former Reds pitcher Mike Leake.