Former Pirates farmhand Jeff Keppinger keyed a four-run first inning with a double and drove in three runs.
Scott Hatteberg and Griffey hit line-drive home runs into the right-field seats a batter apart in the seventh inning and Adam Dunn homered for the second game in a row to support Matt Belisle’s first winning start in more than two months. Alex Gonzalez added a solo shot in the ninth.
Griffey’s 26th of the season probably couldn’t have left PNC Park any quicker. Reliever Jonah Bayliss left a pitch up and in to Griffey, and his drive reached the top of the seats in barely a moment. With the Reds having 52 more games to play, Griffey could get close to No. 600 by season’s end.
“I got a ball up I could hit and I was able to hit it, but once it left the bat I couldn’t control it,” said Griffey. “I try to get them up and, hopefully, they go out.”
Plenty of them went out as the Reds halted a five-game losing streak in which they were outscored 35-9.
“We’ve been struggling, I’ve been struggling—my timing was a little off,” Griffey said. “Today was just one of those days. You can’t explain it.”
Belisle (6-8) has struggled, too, except against Pittsburgh. Half of his victories are against the Pirates as he beat them for the third time in as many starts by allowing three runs over six innings. It wasn’t exactly a standout start—he gave up nine hits, including Ryan Doumit’s two-run homer—but Belisle managed to win for the first time in 11 starts since beating Houston on May 29.
“It seems like it’s been a while, it has been a little bit,” Belisle said. “It’s great to get it after the skid we’ve been on.”
The Pirates’ Ian Snell (7-10), statistically one of the NL’s best starters before the All-Star break but one of its worst after it, was hurt again by a poor first inning in losing his fifth in a row. The right-hander gave up 10 hits and six runs in five innings, the fourth time in those five starts he has allowed four or more runs.
“I really don’t have anything to say,” Snell said. “It’s disgraceful, the way I’ve pitched the second half. I have no one to blame but myself. The first half was so great, I don’t know how to explain it. I’m just bad right now.”
Illustrating the Pirates’ frustration as they dipped 19 games under .500, pitching coach Jim Colborn was seen yelling at Snell. Snell waved off the incident, as did manager Jim Tracy.
“I don’t know what was said. It looked brief to me,” Tracy said. “Little things like that probably happen in a lot of places.”
Snell gave up Dunn’s 29th homer to make it 6-0 in the fourth inning, the ninth homer off Snell in six starts. In five starts since the break, Snell has repeatedly fallen behind by yielding 10 runs in the first inning.
This time, the Reds led 4-0 within a span of seven batters. Norris Hopper and Griffey singled and Dunn walked ahead of Keppinger’s two-run double to center. Javier Valentin followed with an RBI single on a weakly hit fly to short right field that Doumit was ready to catch until second baseman Freddy Sanchez got in his way, allowing the ball to drop. Edwin Encarnacion singled in a run.
The Pirates had two other defensive misadventures. Left fielder Jason Bay lost an Encarnacion fly ball in the lights during the fifth for a two-base error. An inning later, reliever John Grabow failed to cover first on Hopper’s bunt single and Keppinger took advantage with a single for his third RBI.
The Pirates’ 15th loss in 19 games dropped them back into last place in the NL Central after they briefly exited by beating St. Louis on successive days.
Reds interim manager Pete Mackanin filled the same role with Pittsburgh late in the 2005 season. … Pirates OF Xavier Nady missed a third consecutive start with a tight hamstring. … The Reds lead the season series 6-5. … It’s not exactly a Yankees-like pace, but the Pirates have eight homers in six games. … Valentin is 8-for-12 against Snell. … The Pirates drafted Keppinger, only to trade him to the Mets in the Kris Benson deal in 2004.