PITTSBURGH (AP)—D’Angelo Jimenez must have been listening when Cincinnati manager Dave Miley said the best way to get out of a slump is to keep playing, not give in by resting for a day or two.
Jimenez, staying in the lineup despite a bad slump, homered and drove in three runs and the Reds rallied from four runs down to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-7 on Saturday night.
Jimenez was 1-for-29 before getting three hits and reaching base five times as the Reds beat the Pirates for the fourth time in five games. Cincinnati was 5-11 against Pittsburgh last season.
“I was fighting every at-bat, to take a walk or just hit the ball,” Jimenez said. “I think I’m out of the slump and we won and tomorrow is another day. We were behind 4-0 to a pretty good pitcher (Kris Benson), but we just kept battling.”
Cincinnati added two runs in the ninth, but not without a scare. Pinch-hitter Ryan Freel, squaring to bunt with two on and none out, was struck on the left side of his face by Jason Boyd’s fastball that ran inside.
Freel, his helmet flying, dropped to the ground and lay motionless for a minute or so. Finally, he got up after several minutes and was replaced by pinch-runner Javier Valentin. Freel was seen clutching an ice bag to his face after the game, but Pirates doctors found nothing wrong and didn’t order any precautionary tests.
Benson (2-1) couldn’t hold the 4-0 lead, allowing seven runs and 12 hits in five innings in an effort that baffled manager Lloyd McClendon.
“It was puzzling,” he said. “His stuff in the first inning was electric. He’s throwing 96 (mph), hitting his spots, he’s snapping his breaking ball. But we score four and there seemed to be a little letup.”
Reds starter Jimmy Haynes never did get going, allowing seven of his nine batters to get hits in the four-run first, but the Reds’ bullpen was much more effective. Todd Van Poppel (1-0) followed with three shutout innings and contributed an RBI single before giving up two runs in the fifth.
“Four runs and seven hits, they jumped on him (Haynes) pretty quick, but these guys battled back,” Miley said. “All the pitches he made were up, even his 0-2 pitches., Obviously, he’s got to make better pitches than that.”
The bullpen did. Ryan Wagner followed with 1 2-3 scoreless innings and Brian Reith and Todd Jones a scoreless inning each. Danny Graves, pitching for the seventh time in nine games, gave up Rob Mackowiak’s homer in the ninth but still got his ninth save in 11 chances and his second in two nights.
Graves also pitched the ninth Friday to finish four scoreless innings by the bullpen in a 6-4 victory. Reds relievers have permitted three runs in 12 innings so far in the series.
Down 4-0 Saturday, the Reds got a run back in the second, then scored five times in the third to go ahead 6-4. Jimenez hit his second homer of the season on Benson’s first pitch of the inning, and Ken Griffey Jr. and Sean Casey followed with RBI doubles.
Benson could have gotten out of the inning by getting Van Poppel with two outs and the bases loaded, but the reliever singled to make it 5-4. Jimenez then drew a bases-loaded walk for his second RBI of the inning.
“They hit every mistake I made,” Benson said. “I couldn’t get them to miss a pitch. I’m capable of pitching better than this. But we (pitchers) are going to have our ups and downs, just like the offense.”
Jimenez singled with two outs in the fifth and scored on Barry Larkin’s third hit, a double, to make it 7-4 in the fifth, a run that proved valuable when Pittsburgh scored twice in its half of the inning.
Raul Mondesi, Craig Wilson and Jose Castillo had RBI singles in the first, but the Pirates lost what would have been a valuable run when Randall Simon tried to score from second on Benson’s single. Simon aggravated a pulled hamstring and was tagged out well short of the plate for the third out, then was lifted.
Benson was 0-for-44 until getting singles his first two times up. Bensonhadn’t had a hit since Aug. 20, 2002.
Haynes is 3-7 with a 5.625 ERA against the Pirates. … By winning the two games of the series, the Reds assured themselves of no worse than a split. They went 3-0-2 in their first six series. … The Reds’ Austin Kearns was 0-for-18 and 1-for-22 until he doubled in the ninth against Boyd. … The Pirates have lost six of nine, with the only wins being a three-game sweep in New York last weekend. … Van Poppel was 6-for-40 with one RBI in his careerbefore getting his infield hit.