PITTSBURGH (AP) Elly Da La Cruz hit a two-run triple in the first inning and drove in three runs, and Luke Maile belted a three-run homer Friday night as the Cincinnati Reds routed the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-2 for just their second victory in nine games.
De La Cruz’s triple into the right-field corner sparked a three-run first. The rookie shortstop then scored on a double by Spencer Steer.
Reds manager David Bell shuffled his slumping team’s lineup and dropped De La Cruz from leadoff to the No. 3 spot. The 21-year-old had hit just .207 in 22 games at the top of the order.
“I think we’ll stick with it,” Bell said with a smile about the new-look lineup. “You don’t really like to make too many changes, but I thought we needed to give the lineup a little different look and it couldn’t have worked out any better.”
Center fielder TJ Friedl, the new leadoff hitter, concurred with Bell. Friedl led off the game with a walk and Matt McLain singled in front of De La Cruz.
“That first inning worked out just the way you’d draw it up,” Friedl said. “We got a couple of people on base and then Elly gets a big hit. That really set the tone of the whole game.”
Maile’s homer to center in the fourth off Jose Oviedo extended the lead to 6-0. It came after Stuart Fairchild was hit by a pitch and Will Benson singled.
That gave rookie left-hander Andrew Abbott (7-3) plenty of cushion. He took a shutout into the sixth before Ke’Bryan Hayes hit a solo home run and Andrew McCutchen had an RBI single to draw the Pirates to 6-2.
After giving up 10 runs over nine innings in his previous two starts, Abbott allowed two runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out nine and walked none.
“I felt right on time with my delivery, and I felt really good in the bullpen warming up,” Abbott said. “It just came down to execution and I did a lot better job tonight than my last couple of times out.”
The Reds began the day tied with the Chicago Cubs for second place in the NL Central, 2 1/2 games behind Milwaukee. Cincinnati moved a half-game ahead of Miami for the third and final National League wild card after the Marlins lost 9-4 to the New York Yankees.
Oviedo (6-12) plunked three batters and was tagged for six runs in five innings. He had won his previous three starts while yielding just two runs in 20 innings.
“I was feeling like I didn’t have feel on my fastball,” Oviedo said. “It just didn’t go the way I wanted it to.”
Friedl, De La Cruz and Steer hit run-scoring singles in the eighth to make it 9-2. Benson had three hits for the Reds, while De La Cruz and Steer had two each.
McCutchen and Bryan Reynolds extended their on-base streaks to 15 games for the Pirates. Reynolds finished with two hits as Pittsburgh lost for the third time in four games.
SENZEL SENT DOWN
The Reds optioned infielder/outfielder Nick Senzel, the second overall pick in the 2016 amateur draft, to Triple-A Louisville.
Senzel had been in the major leagues continuously since 2019, except for rehab assignments. The 28-year-old was hitting .219 in 80 games with nine home runs and five stolen bases. He went 4 for 32 (.125) in his last 12 games.
Cincinnati selected the contract of outfielder Henry Ramos from Louisville. Right-hander Eduardo Salazar was designated for assignment to open a spot for Ramos on the 40-man roster.
Reds: DH Christian Encarnacion-Strand exited after being hit on the left hand by a pitch in the fifth. X-rays were negative. … 2B Jonathan India (plantar fasciitis in left foot) has been shut down from running for two weeks and will then undergo another MRI. The 2021 NL Rookie of the Year has been sidelined since July 29. … LHP Nick Lodolo (left calf tendinitis), who last pitched on May 6, reported to the Arizona Complex League to start a rehab assignment. … C Curt Casali (bruised left foot) began a rehab assignment with Louisville.
The Reds will start rookie LHP Brandon Williamson (4-2, 4.54 ERA) on Saturday against RHP Andre Jackson (0-0, 5.16). Williamson is 3-0 with a 3.57 ERA in his last four starts.
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