Dunn hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the fifth after Wells’ throwing error on a likely double play grounder, and the Cincinnati Reds held on to beat the Pirates 6-4 on Friday night.
Dunn drove in four runs with a bases-loaded walk in the third and his eighth homer, an estimated 431-foot drive over the right-field stands that put the Reds up 5-3.
“We caught a break and it played big for us,” Cincinnati manager Dave Miley said.
All of Dunn’s homers this season have traveled at least 405 feet. He has four homers in as many games against Pittsburgh.
The Reds’ bullpen pitched four scoreless innings following another shaky start by Paul Wilson (3-0), who gave up four runs and nine hits in five innings. Wilson has allowed 20 hits and 10 earned runs in 9 2-3 innings in his last two starts, but didn’t lose either one.
The Pirates led 3-2 before Barry Larkin singled with one out in the fifth. Sean Casey grounded back to Wells (2-2), who had plenty of time to throw to second to start the double play. But Wells’ high throw pulled shortstop Jack Wilson off the bag, putting runners on first and second.
“It’s one of those plays you work on all spring in pitchers fielding practice,” Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He probably wins the game if he makes that throw, but he just didn’t make it.”
Dunn, 9-for-21 against Wells, ran the count to 3-1 before homering on a fastball that tailed outside, rather than inside as Wells intended. Dunn needs two more homers to match Tony Perez’s 1970 club record of 10 homers in April.
Afterward, Wells was as upset about his throw to second as any he made to the plate, even the one Dunn knocked out.
“It was a ground ball and that’s what I wanted,” Wells said. “I got it pretty quickly and I knew Casey was a pretty slow runner and I knew I had time. I don’t know if I double clutched, but my throwing motion was too long, and it just became a big play.
“I knew I had to bear down and get the next guy, but he just killed it.”
The Pirates got a run back in the fifth on Bobby Hill’s RBI force-play grounder, but managed just one hit in the final four innings against a Cincinnati bullpen that had a 10.71 ERA and five blown saves in its previous eight games.
“It’s just like hitters in a slump, there are going to be struggles in a long season, but you’ve just got to show the confidence in them,” Miley said. “It was a good night for them.”
Wells, whose 2.12 home ERA last season was the NL’s best, allowed the first four Reds batters to reach base in the third, but escaped with only two runs scoring on Dunn’s bases-loaded walk and Austin Kearns’ grounder. Kearns got an RBI, but went 0-for-3 to drop his average to .130.
The Pirates came back to take a 3-2 lead in their half of the third, helped by third baseman Ryan Freel’s run-scoring errant throw on Wilson’s infield single. Jason Kendall followed with an RBI grounder and Craig Wilson hit into a run-scoring force play.
Cincinnati added an insurance run in the ninth against Salomon Torres on a walk, Juan Castro’s pinch-hit single and D’Angelo Jimenez’s run-scoringgrounder. Jimenez was 0-for-24 before he singled to start the two-run third.
Wells was lifted after throwing only 55 of his 95 pitches for strikes. He gave up six hits and walked four in five innings. … The Pirates lost their third in a row, all at home. … Wilson is 3-0 for the first time. … The Reds are 3-1 against the Pirates after going 7-1 against them during spring training. … The Reds played without Ken Griffey Jr., who attended his maternal grandfather’s funeral in Donora, Pa. … Kearns is in a 1-for-18 slump. … Dunn, who is hitting .367, missed a chance to drive in more runs when he popped out with the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth. … Dunnhad nine homers last April.