CINCINNATI (AP) — Jay Bruce came up big by thinking small.
Bruce hit an RBI triple in the ninth inning, and the Cincinnati Reds capped a strong season-opening homestand with a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.
The Reds swept the Philadelphia Phillies and then took two of three from the Pirates for a 5-1 start. They begin a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs on Monday in their first road trip of the year.
Brandon Phillips led off the ninth with a single. After a popout, Bruce tripled down the right-field line against Arquimedes Caminero (0-1).
“I knew Caminero was throwing really, really hard, but he didn’t throw me a lot of fastballs,” Bruce said. “I told myself to think small and it turned out big. I think he broke my bat with a cutter-slider thing.”
Former Pirates right-hander Ross Ohlendorf (2-0) escaped a first-and-second, one-out jam in the ninth to get the win.
Eugenio Suarez opened the Reds sixth with his fourth home run, tying at 1. He finished with three hits.
Suarez is the first Reds player with four homers in the first six games since Adam Dunn had four in six in 2004, the Reds said in citing the Elias Sports Bureau.
Tim Melville, a non-roster player in spring training, made his major league debut for the Reds and admitted to being nervous. The 26-year-old right-hander needed 37 pitches to negotiate a 20-minute, scoreless top of the first that ended with the bases loaded.
“It was one of those moments. It’s not a dream anymore,” Melville said. “I was nervous. It happens to the best of us. I told myself to get back to the game plan and get strike one. You’re out there by yourself.
Melville threw 92 pitches, 55 for strikes, while lasting four innings. Pittsburgh stranded eight runners against him, six in scoring position.
Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke allowed one run in six innings in his season debut.
Chris Stewart, batting for the first time this season, homered in the Pirates second.
Reds left fielder Adam Duvall saved a run in the eighth, throwing out Josh Harrison trying to score from second on John Jaso’s single. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle challenged the call, which was upheld, but Harrison still wondered if catcher Devin Mesoraco didn’t illegally block the plate.
“It’s still a gray area,” Harrison said. “I don’t know what is. At the end of the day, that’s what they called. … It’s instinctive. You have to trust your gut. I feel like I did as much as I could to try to get around it.
“At the end of the day, the game’s over. We had our chances.”
That was Pittsburgh’s only hit in 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
“I don’t think we were pressing,” Hurdle said. “We’ll go back and look at the tape to make sure guys weren’t rolling over, trying to do too much.”
BEEN A WHILE
The last time the Reds were 5-1 was 2011. They went on to finish 79-83.
To make room on the roster for Melville, the Reds cut first baseman Brandon Allen, who had just been promoted from Triple-A Louisville on Friday. Allen, who didn’t play in the two games he was with the Reds, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Louisville.
Right-hander Dan Straily became the last player on Cincinnati’s opening-day roster to make an appearance when he took over for Melville in the fifth. He pitched three hitless innings.
Pirates: Stewart played for the first time this season while C Francisco Cervelli got his first day off.
Reds: Manager Bryan Price still hopes RHP Anthony DeSclafani can start on Friday in St. Louis. But Price said Sunday that the longer DeSclafani is sidelined with his left oblique strain, the more likely it is that he will need a rehab assignment.
Pirates: Former Mets LHP Jon Niese makes his second start of the season and first of his career at Detroit’s Comerica Park on Monday. Niese last pitched against Detroit in 2010 with the Mets.
Reds: LHP Brandon Finnegan makes his first career appearance against the Cubs. Finnegan got a no-decision against the Phillies on Wednesday.