Pirates 6, Reds 3
CINCINNATI (AP)—Freddy Sanchez certainly looked comfortable at the plate, even if he felt a little rusty.
The 2006 NL batting champion had two hits and an RBI in his first game since coming off the disabled list, and Zach Duke pitched the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 6-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.
“I’m still trying to work out the kinks,” said Sanchez, who flied out to center on the first pitch of the game. “It felt good to get back out there. I was a little antsy.”
Jason Bay, Jack Wilson and Brad Eldred homered to help the Pirates avoid their first three-game sweep in Cincinnati since September 1998. Wilson hit a two-run shot, while Eldred connected for the first time since 2005 and drove in two runs.
Zach Duke (1-0) pitched six shutout innings before giving up three runs and getting chased in the seventh without getting an out. He allowed six hits overall, struck out five and didn’t walk a batter.
Salomon Torres pitched a perfect ninth for his fourth save in four tries.
Sanchez, who batted .344 last year, opened this season on the DL with a sprained right knee. He led off the fifth inning with a single to left for his first hit and Wilson followed with his first homer, a line drive down the left-field line.
Eric Milton (0-1), who wasn’t even on the active roster when he was booed during pregame introductions on opening day, fell to 16-24 with the Reds. He is in the final year of the $25.5 million, three-year contract he signed as a free agent in December 2004.
Milton, making his first start after opening the season on the disabled list with lower back spasms, allowed 10 hits and four runs with one walk and six strikeouts in 5 2-3 innings.
“There were a few positives, but the end result wasn’t what we wanted,” Milton said. “Everything was fine. I haven’t pitched in a while, but that had no bearing on the way things worked out.”
Eldred, who spent part of last year with Triple-A Indianapolis after breaking his thumb early in the season, snapped a scoreless tie in the fourth by driving in Xavier Nady from first with a double to left field.
The Pirates knocked Milton out of the game in the sixth with a one-out double by Jose Bautista and a two-out RBI double by Sanchez, who is hitting .647 (11-for-17) in his career against Milton.
“Numbers are just numbers,” Sanchez said. “This is the big leagues. Everybody’s good. I don’t know what I hit against him before. It just felt good to get back out there, no matter who was on the mound.”
Pirates manager Jim Tracy batted Sanchez leadoff in order to get him as many at-bats as possible. Sanchez hit third most of last season and leadoff just once.
“Sanchez was missed,” Tracy said. “He can flat hit.”
Milton fell to 1-5 in 11 career appearances against Pittsburgh.
“He threw off-speed pitches down in the zone,” Reds manager Jerry Narron said. “If you can do that and not give in when you’re behind in the count, you have a chance to be successful.”
Eldred added his one-out solo homer in the eighth off Todd Coffey, snapping a streak of 14 2-3 consecutive scoreless innings by Cincinnati’s bullpen. Eldred’s homer was his first since he hit 12 for the Pirates in 2005.
“It felt pretty good,” said Eldred, who was playing his first game of the season. “There wasn’t much of a difference after the first at-bat. I wasn’t as aggressive as I wanted to be. I took a pitch I should have swung at.”
Griffey moved into 21st place on the career RBI list with 1,610, passing Goose Goslin, who had 1,609. … The Reds made room for Milton on the 25-man roster by placing rookie RHP Jared Burton on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring. A team spokesman said Burton was hurt running in the outfield before Saturday’s game. … Pittsburgh RHP Matt Capps’ eighth-inning infield single was his first career hit. … Reds CF Ryan Freel was caught stealing for the first time after being successful on his first four attempts. … The gametime temperature of 37 degrees left the Reds with five consecutive games that started with the temperature below 40.