Freel was taken off the field on a stretcher after colliding with a teammate. Tests came back normal, and his hard-nosed hustle inspired his teammates to turn in several sparkling defensive plays that helped help Kyle Lohse throw a six-hit shutout, which snapped the team's six-game skid as well as Lohse's personal six-game losing streak.
"That's what we need -- pitching and defense," said catcher David Ross, who hit a two-run home run and blocked the plate to tag Humberto Cota and complete a double play that ended Pittsburgh's last scoring threat in the eighth inning.
"I think Freel's play was kind of a turning point for us."
Freel left the game in the third inning after running into right fielder Norris Hopper while catching Cota's fly ball on the warning track in right-center field. Freel was spun around and landed near the base of the wall. The game was delayed 13 minutes while Reds trainers and doctor looked at him before he was strapped onto a stretcher and loaded into an ambulance to be taken to a local hospital.
"He just goes out there and plays hard every play," Lohse said. "It's fun to watch, but it's scary."
The Reds announced in the fourth inning that Freel, who's known for his all-out play, had feeling in all of his extremities and was coherent. CT scans were normal and he was diagnosed with a contusion to the head and neck. He will be re-evaluated Tuesday.
Edwin Encarnacion added two RBI for Cincinnati as well as three sparkling defensive plays that helped keep the Pirates off the scoreboard.
"I know I can play down there," said Encarnacion, who was sent down to Triple-A Louisville on May 10, in part because of poor defense. "I never lost my confidence."
Lohse (2-6), who was ill during his last start and said he still hasn't regained the 8-9 pounds he lost, got past the fifth inning for the first time in his last four starts while shutting down a team that had scored 33 runs and won the first three games of the series. He struck out two and didn't walk a batter to avoid becoming the first Reds pitcher since Fred Norman in 1977 to lose seven consecutive starts.
"The defense picked me up today," Lohse said. "When they do that, it gives you the confidence to keep pounding the strike zone."
Pittsburgh starter Ian Snell acknowledged that Freel's play changed the game, but wasn't sure the umpires made the right call on it.
"It seemed like their defense stepped up when Freel caught the ball -- but I still don't think he caught it," Snell said.
The win was Lohse's first in eight starts since the Reds beat the Chicago Cubs, 1-0, on April 15 at Wrigley Field in Cincinnati's only shutout win of the season. Pittsburgh was shut out for the fourth time.
It was Lohse's fourth career shutout.
"You've got to give credit to him," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said. "He pitched ahead, and he had some help. He got a lift with his defense. We hit into some tough luck."
The game was scoreless until Alex Gonzalez was hit by a pitch to lead off the fifth inning and, one out later, Ross launched his sixth homer of the season into the left field seats to give the Reds a 2-0 lead.
The Reds added a run in the sixth when Adam Dunn doubled, moved to third on Snell's wild pitch and scored on Encarnacion's bloop to short right-center field over a drawn-in Pirates infield. Encarnacion gave Lohse some breathing room with a single to drive in Brandon Phillips in the eighth inning.
Snell (4-4) has lost his last two starts after getting wins in three of his previous decisions. Snell allowed five hits and three runs with two walks and six strikeouts in seven innings.
- The Reds optioned RHP Kirk Saarloos to Triple-A Louisville and recalled LHP Bobby Livingstone before Monday's game.
- RF Ken Griffey Jr. did not start Monday after starting each of Cincinnati's last 26 games. Griffey entered the game in the top of the third inning to replace Freel.
- Umpire Bob Davidson missed his second consecutive game due to illness. He was replaced at second base by Adam Dowdy.
- The Pirates announced that they had signed RHP David Copley, their 43rd round draft pick in last year's draft.