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Conine leads Reds over Pirates with three-run bomb

CBS SportsLine.com wire reports
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CINCINNATI -- Jeff Conine liked his home run a lot. It put his team ahead and got him back to the heated dugout quickly.

Conine hit a three-run homer and tripled on a frigid Friday night, leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 6-1 victory that ended the Pittsburgh Pirates' unbeaten streak.

The 40-year-old outfielder, acquired in a December trade to platoon at first base, led the Reds to a win for the second day in a row. Conine also had a game-tying, pinch-hit single and scored the go-ahead run against the Cubs on Thursday.

He homered off Pittsburgh's Paul Maholm (0-1) in the third inning for a 4-1 lead on Friday. He also beat out a triple to the wall in center field in the sixth, taking deep gulps of freezing air while he beat the throw to third.

The key on this night was getting out of the cold as quickly as possible.

"We were getting quick innings, so we weren't doing a lot of standing around," said Conine, whose ears and nose were red from the cold after the game.

The Pirates opened the season 3-0 for the first time since 2003, but couldn't keep the winning streak going against right-hander Matt Belisle (1-0), who retired 14 in a row over the middle innings. Pittsburgh managed only four hits -- none after the second inning.

"Belisle was out there pitching in the same conditions, and he was throwing strikes," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. "He shut us completely down."

It was 36 degrees with a biting wind at the first pitch, and snowflakes occasionally dotted the night sky. The three base umpires wore facemasks and gloves to ward off the cold.

The Reds sold 17,837 tickets for the game. Fans who wore shorts for the season opener on Monday, when temperatures were in the mid-70s, broke out their winter coats and blankets and huddled together for the first game of the weekend series.

Maholm made two bad pitches and got one bad break during his five innings. Brandon Phillips hit a solo homer in the first inning -- right fielder Xavier Nady dug his cleats into the padded outfield wall and reached above it, but couldn't quite come up with the ball.

The Reds then put two runners aboard and got a break in the third. Edwin Encarnacion singled with two outs and Ken Griffey Jr. followed with a slow grounder to the left side of an over-shifted infield. Umpire Jeff Kellogg called Griffey safe at first on a close play that prolonged the inning, and Conine hit his first homer into the seats in left field for a 4-1 lead.

"Early on, I reverted back to what I did last year," Maholm said. "I was jumping at the plate and wasn't smooth. When I went out in the fourth to warm up, I felt it and corrected it. The first three innings were pretty brutal."

Cincinnati added a run in the seventh, when Ryan Freel doubled, stole third and continued home on catcher Ronny Paulino's wild throw for an error. David Ross had a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

The Pirates scored a run in the first on singles by Chris Duffy, Jack Wilson and Paulino, but got nothing more against Belisle, who allowed only four hits and one walk in six innings.

"I've never pitched in snow flurries," Belisle said. "Basically, I just stayed bundled up. They have a heater up in the tunnel (by the dugout) and I go up there sometimes, but the main thing is I make sure to not sit too long."

The main thing was to make sure his fielders didn't have to stand out in the cold for long. Belisle worked fast and threw a pleasing 73 strikes in 105 pitches.

"He's done everything we asked," manager Jerry Narron said. "Tonight, he was trying to get outs as quickly as he could and get guys off the field and back into the dugout."

The Pirates have gotten off to their fast start without NL batting champion Freddy Sanchez, who sprained a knee ligament on March 6. Sanchez is eligible to come off the disabled list on Saturday, but the Pirates haven't decided when he will rejoin the team.

Sanchez played for Triple-A Indianapolis on Thursday night, going 1-for-2. Asked if there is a chance that Sanchez could join the Pirates in Cincinnati over the weekend, Tracy said, "I don't know."

Notes

  • The Reds changed Saturday's game to an afternoon start because of the cold. The original 7:10 p.m. start was moved to 1:05 p.m. after the Reds consulted with the Pirates, the umpires and Major League Baseball.
  • INF Jose Hernandez, who was released by Pittsburgh on March 31, has agreed to a minor league deal and will join Triple-A Indianapolis in the next few days.
  • Reds LHP Eric Milton felt fine on Friday and is still expected to come off the DL and start on Sunday in the final game of a series against Pittsburgh. Milton has been sidelined by back spasms.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Alex Gonzalez extends congratulations to Jeff Conine after Conine's home run in the third.  (US Presswire)
Alex Gonzalez extends congratulations to Jeff Conine after Conine's home run in the third. (US Presswire)

Players of the Game
Cincinnati

J. Conine
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 3
Cincinnati

M. Belisle
IP 6.0
H 4
ER 1
BB 1
K 6
 
Pittsburgh Pirates
Chris Duffy, CF4110011 .222
Jack Wilson, SS4010000 .412
Jason Bay, LF4000001 .176
Adam LaRoche, 1B3000122 .067
Ronny Paulino, C4011011 .167
Xavier Nady, RF3000022 .267
Jose Bautista, 3B3010000 .438
Jose Castillo, 2B3000021 .071
Paul Maholm, P2000021 .000
    John Wasdin, P0000000 .000
    Juan Perez, P0000000 .000
   a- Ryan Doumit, PH1000010 .000
    Damaso Marte, P0000000 .000
Totals31141111  
a-struck out for J. Perez in the 8th
Batting
2B - Jose Bautista (3, Belisle)
RBI - Ronny Paulino (3)
2-OUT RBI - Ronny Paulino (2)
Team LOB - 4
Fielding
DP - J. Wilson-LaRoche
E - Chris Duffy (1, Misplayed grounder), Ronny Paulino (2, Throwing)
Pittsburgh Pirates
Paul Maholm (L,0-1) 5744222 7.20
John Wasdin 0.2100000 0.00
Juan Perez 1.1110010 0.00
Damaso Marte 1110110 0.00
Pitches-Strikes - Paul Maholm 87-54, John Wasdin 11-9, Juan Perez 22-11, Damaso Marte 20-10
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Paul Maholm 5-7, Juan Perez 1-2
Batters Faced - Paul Maholm 23, John Wasdin 3, Juan Perez 5, Damaso Marte 5
Cincinnati Reds
Ryan Freel, CF4110001 .214
Brandon Phillips, 2B4111001 .143
Adam Dunn, LF4010010 .333
    Mike Stanton, P0000000 .000
    Kirk Saarloos, P0000000 .000
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B3110100 .250
Ken Griffey Jr., RF3210102 .308
Jeff Conine, 1B4123003 .333
Alex Gonzalez, SS3020101 .364
David Ross, C3011002 .100
Matt Belisle, P2000022 .000
   a- Javier Valentin, PH1000001 .250
    Todd Coffey, P0000000 .000
    Josh Hamilton, LF1000011 .000
Totals32610534  
a-grounded out for Belisle in the 6th
Batting
2B - Ryan Freel (2, J. Perez)
3B - Jeff Conine (1, Wasdin)
HR - Brandon Phillips (1, Maholm), Jeff Conine (1, Maholm)
SF - David Ross (1)
RBI - Brandon Phillips (1), Jeff Conine 3 (4), David Ross (1)
2-OUT RBI - Jeff Conine 3 (4)
SB - Ryan Freel (2, off J. Perez/Paulino)
Team LOB - 6
Cincinnati Reds
Matt Belisle (W,1-0) 6411160 1.50
Todd Coffey (H,1) 1000010 0.00
Mike Stanton 1000020 0.00
Kirk Saarloos 1000020 0.00
Pitches-Strikes - Matt Belisle 105-72, Todd Coffey 18-11, Mike Stanton 12-9, Kirk Saarloos 13-8
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Matt Belisle 5-7, Todd Coffey 1-1, Kirk Saarloos 1-0
Batters Faced - Matt Belisle 23, Todd Coffey 3, Mike Stanton 3, Kirk Saarloos 3
Game Information
Attendance - 17837
Game Time - 2:44
Temperature - 36
Umpires - Home - Mike Reilly, First Base - Jeff Kellogg, Second Base - Eric Cooper, Third Base - James Hoye