Pirates manager Derek Shelton doesn’t hide disgust after Reds pound Mitch Keller

With Mitch Keller still searching for his first major-league victory in almost a year after getting lit up by the Cincinnati Reds, Derek Shelton didn’t bother to disguise his disgust.

The Pittsburgh Pirates manager made no excuses for Keller giving up five runs on five extra-base hits, blaming it squarely on his inability to locate pitches and sounding like someone who is running out of patience with the right-hander’s inconsistency.

“You can’t leave balls in the middle of the plate,” Shelton said. “He didn’t execute very well at all, and there were a ton of hard-hit balls because of it.”

Brandon Drury drove in four runs with a double and a home run, and Mike Moustakas hit a pair of solo homers as the Reds pounded the Pirates, 8-2, Friday night before 12,588 at PNC Park.

Shelton seemed more concerned with Keller giving up four doubles, a home run and two walks while striking out two in 4 2/3 innings. Half of his 80 pitches were fastballs, but he drew only two whiffs on 18 swings, and the Reds had an average exit velocity of 95 mph.

Keller wasn’t alone in getting hit hard, as reliever Heath Hembree gave up three runs on a pair of homers in the seventh and eight of the Reds’ 10 hits were for extra bases.

“I think the connecting factor was we didn’t pitch very well,” Shelton said. “You leave balls in the middle of the plate, they’re going to hit it hard, and we left a bunch of balls in the middle of the plate. We got hit hard. ”

It was the second consecutive start in which Keller allowed five runs against the Reds, though he got a no-decision in the Pirates’ 8-5 win last Saturday in Game 2 of their doubleheader at Great American Ball Park.

Despite owning the worst record in baseball, the NL Central last-place Reds (9-24) have scored three times as many runs as the Pirates (13-19) in beating them by a combined 36-12 in four of five meetings since Saturday.

“They’re a good hitting team. They’re hot right now, ”Keller said. “I can’t leave stuff over the middle of the plate. When you’re missing your spot, put it in their hot zones, they’re going to take advantage of it. ”

Keller (0-5) last earned a major-league victory on Sept. 21, a 6-2 win over the Reds in Cincinnati. He hasn’t won at PNC Park since a 4-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies on May 29, 2021, a stretch of 13 starts at home. That includes six starts at Triple-A Indianapolis last year, when the Pirates demoted him in mid-June after a 3-7 start.

“I’m not really worried about my own personal wins and losses,” Keller said. “Those will come if I throw well. I’ve just gotta get back on the attack and get back after them. ”

Reds starter Tyler Mahle (2-4), by contrast, struck out eight while giving up two runs on five hits, including a homer and two doubles, on 102 pitches in six innings.

Mahle got off to a rough start when Ben Gamel drove a 1-1 fastball into the right field seats for his first career leadoff home run and third this season, a 356-foot blast that stood after a video review and gave the Pirates a 1 -0 lead.

“It was cool, but it would have been a lot cooler if we had won the game,” Gamel said. “But, like I say, it’s hard to win a major league game. Those guys get paid, too, and they’re good players. ”

The Reds got back-to-back doubles by Tyler Naquin and Kyle Farmer to tie the game, and Farmer scored on TJ Friedl’s sacrifice fly to the left to give the Reds a 2-1 lead.

Gamel, who went 2 for 4 to raise his batting average to .310, came through again in the third. He hit a two-out single, advanced to second on a wild pitch and scored on a double down the left-field line by Ke’Bryan Hayes to tie it at 2-2.

Hayes was stranded at second when Bryan Reynolds grounded out to short. Reynolds later flew out to center with Hayes at third base in the eighth and is 1 for 25 with runners in scoring position this season.

“I think he looks a little bit in between,” Shelton said of Reynolds. “When you have guys in the middle of the order that’s drastic, it really stands out.”

Moustakas sent Keller’s 1-2 fastball into the right field seats for a 378-foot homer and 3-2 Reds lead in the fourth. Keller’s troubles continued in the fifth, when Drury hit a two-run double into the right field corner with runners on second and third for a 5-2 lead Reds lead.

Both Drury and Moustakas teed off against Hembree in the seventh. Drury hit a two-run homer 417 feet to the North Side Notch in left field to make it 7-2, and Moustakas drilled a 427-foot shot to center for his 15th career multi-homer game and an 8-2 lead.

And the Pirates are back to figuring out how to get Keller on track.

“You have to execute to get wins at this level,” Shelton said. “He had a couple starts where he’s throwing the ball really well, and we haven’t gotten any runs for him. Pitching at this level is a grind, and you have to continue to grind because nobody’s given in, and if you don’t execute, you’re not making your opportunities. I think he’s in a situation where he needs to make his own opportunities. ”

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Kevin by email at kgorman@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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