CINCINNATI (AP) Eugenio Suarez and Joey Votto hit three-run homers in Cincinnati's six-run second inning, powering the Reds to a 7-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series.
Jonathan India also went deep and pitcher Sonny Gray (4-6) helped himself with two hits as second-place Cincinnati gained a half-game on idle NL Central-leader Milwaukee and a full game on San Diego, which has a three-game lead over the Reds for the second wild-card slot. The Brewers lead Cincinnati by seven games.
''It is really nice to get out to an early lead for a lot of reaaons,'' Reds manager David Bell said. ''The Pirates fought back. We had to keep going.''
The Reds have won seven of their last nine games. The Pirates have lost four of five.
The Reds sent 11 batters to the plate against Wil Crowe (3-6) in the second, but only two of their runs were earned after second baseman Wilmer Difo was charged with an error. Suarez, batting .176 going into the game and hitting eighth for the first time since 2019 and eighth since joining the Reds in 2015, followed by going to opposite field with a shot to right field.
''We wanted to make (third base coach J.R House's) arm sore from waving us around,'' shortstop Kyle Farmer said. ''When you have the Venezuelan home run king hitting eighth, you have a pretty deep lineup.''
Suarez set the single-season home run record for Venezuelan Major League players with 49 in 2019.
Votto, who hit at least one homer in a franchise-record seven straight games during the last week of July, added a two-out homer that cleared the right-center field fence above the 370-foot marker.
Gray allowed one hit over his first four innings before last-place Pittsburgh sent nine batters to the plate in a five-hit, four-run fifth. One of the hits was Hoy Park's chopper to Votto at first. Votto had Wilmer Difo trapped off third, but Difo scrambled back safely when nobody covered third.
''It's a credit to our club,'' Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. ''We battled back after being down 7-0 in the second.''
Gray gave up six hits and four runs with two walks and seven strikeouts in five innings. Jeff Hoffman and Justin Wilson combined for three scoreless relief innings before Mychal Givens pitched the ninth for his first save.
India hammered a 3-2 pitch over the sixth row of the second deck in left field for his third career leadoff home run, just missing the ''K'' row keeping track of Reds pitchers strikeouts.
Crowe gave up eight hits and seven runs, three earned, with two walks and five strikeouts in four innings. He also hit a batter.
Starting All-Star right fielder Nick Castellanos, in his first start since coming off the injured list before the game, went 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts for the Reds. The NL hitting leader was sidelined except for one pinch-hit appearance after being hit on his right wrist with a pitch in Cincinnati's first game after the All-Star Game on July 16.
Pirates center fielder Brian Reynolds robbed Tyler Naquin of a two-run homer with a leaping catch at the wall in the fifth.
The Reds celebrated ''Bark in the Park'' night of the 2021 season. Dogs and their owners or handlers populated the field level seats in foul territory down the right field line.
Pirates: LF Ben Gamel was scratched from the original starting lineup because of hamstring tightness.
Reds: IF Mike Moustakas (right heel) was back at Great American Ball Park on Thursday after his rehab assignment ended. Manager David Bell said Moustakas could be activated ''in a day or two.'' Catcher Tyler Stephenson left Thursday's game after five innings with a cramp in his hamstring.
Pirates: RHP J.T. Brubaker is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in two starts against Cincinnati this season.
Reds: LHP Wade Miley (8-4) is 3-3 in 11 career starts against Pittsburgh, including a 14-1 win on April 6.
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