CINCINNATI (AP) — Graham Ashcraft pitched seven solid innings, Jason Vosler and TJ Friedl hit solo home runs and the Cincinnati Reds beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-1 on Saturday.
Ashcraft (1-0) overcame Brian Reynolds’ home run to last seven innings, allowing four hits and one run with a walk and six strikeouts.
“The last few starts in spring for Ashcraft carried over,” manager David Bell said. “He really found momentum at the end of spring training and couldn’t wait for the season to start. He just attacked and threw strikes. His slider got better as the game went on. Getting seven innings was really important for out bullpen and set them up to finish it off.”
The right-hander had the longest outing by a Reds starter in the young season as Cincinnati picked up a second straight victory after losing on Opening Day. Hunter Greene lasted 3-1/3 innings in the opener, and Nick Lodolo went five on Saturday.
“I liked the back half of the game,” Ashcraft said. “The first part I was rushing my mechanics a little bit.”
Tyler Stephenson also drove in a run and Vosler, Friedl and Jonathan India each had two hits for the Reds.
Alex Young and Derek Law got past two leadoff hits to keep it 3-1 in the eighth. Alexis Diaz pitched the ninth for his first save.
Vince Velasquez (0-1), making his Pirates debut after signing in December as a free agent, lasted 4-2/3 innings, giving up five hits and three runs with one walk and three strikeouts. The temperature was 49 degrees at game time, Velasqiuez said he trouble gripping the ball at times, but he didn’t want to use that as an excuse.
“I felt phenomenal,” he said. “I felt like the ball was coming out good. I made a couple of mistakes. I had trouble putting them away. I need to close the door and shut them down. I have to minimize the damage.”
Vosler, who made the Reds as a non-roster player after signing a minor-league contract Feb. 1 as a free agent, smacked a 2-1 slider 365 feet into the right-field seats with one out in the second.
Stephenson made it 2-0, driving in India from second base with a single that glanced off shortstop Oneil Cruz’s glove and trickled into short left field with one out in the third inning.
Reynolds, who led Pittsburgh with 27 homers last season, led off the fourth with a 410-foot home run to center field, his first of the season. Pittsburgh has scored three runs over the last two games.
“We’ve faced pretty good pitching,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “The top of their rotation is really good. They have good stuff. We had some opportunities early yesterday and we had some opportunities late. We just couldn’t get the big hit.”
Friedl knocked out Velasquez in the fifth with a two-out homer that sailed 392 feet into the right-field seats for his first hit of the season. He later added a bunt single.
“It is good to get that first hit,” Friedl said. “I had to just trust the process. I’ve hit a home run and got a bunt hit multiple times. Bunting is part of my game. Ke’Bryan Hayes has been in my face all series. When Jonathan got that hit, it was a perfect time to start a rally, but I wanted to make the pitcher field it.”
Unlike Lodolo on Saturday, Ashcraft sailed through the first inning on just nine pitches. Lodolo used 35 while giving up a run and leaving the bases loaded. Ashcraft needed 70 to get through five innings. Lodolo threw 109.
With Jonathan India on first base, two outs and Jake Fraley at the plate with a 2-2 count, Velasquez was handed an automatic ball after a timer violation. Fraley walked before Stephenson’s run-scoring single.
Pirates: RHP J.T. Brubaker (elbow discomfort) is scheduled to be reassessed early this week, manager Derek Shelton said. The Pirates announced on Sunday that Brubaker had been moved from the 15-day injured list to the 60-day list.
Reds: IF-OF Nick Senzel (November left big toe surgery) and RHP Tony Santillan (low back stress fracture) are expected to return on Tuesday from rehab work in Arizona and be sent to the minor leagues on further rehab assignments, manager David Bell said.
Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo is scheduled to make his first career start against Boston on Monday in the opener of a three-game series at Fenway Park.
Reds: RHP Connor Overton is the scheduled starter Monday for the opener of a three-game home series against the Chicago Cubs.