- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 11, 2016

CINCINNATI (AP) - Tony Cingrani couldn’t hold a late lead, and the Reds let yet another one get away.

Jordy Mercer singled home the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning Wednesday night, rallying the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 5-4 victory over Cincinnati in an NL Central rivalry game full of plunkings and ejections.

Andrew McCutchen, David Freese, Jung Ho Kang and Josh Harrison each hit solo homers, and the Pirates got their first lead on Mercer’s single off Ross Ohlendorf (3-4). Pittsburgh gained a split of the rain-shortened, two-game series.

Harrison’s homer off Tony Cingrani tied it in the eighth. The Reds have blown eight of their 11 save chances this season, part of their struggles as the worst bullpen in the majors.

“It’s been a weird season so far,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “I’ve never seen anything like this. We only had a small handful of hard-hit balls, but the balls they hit went out. It’s like we play the same game every day - win by a run or lose by a run.”

Tony Watson (1-0) retired the side in the eighth. Mark Melancon gave up a single and a walk in the ninth while getting his 10th save in 11 chances.

Six batters were hit - four Pirates, two Reds - as the teams extended their history of plunkings. Over the last four seasons, the Reds have hit 43 Pirates batters (10 this season) and the Pirates have hit 41 Reds (five this season). It’s the most of any series in the majors over that span.

The last time four Pirates were hit in a game was Sept. 7, 2008, at San Francisco.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle and left fielder Starling Marte were ejected during a dispute over a call at second base in the sixth inning. Ohlendorf was ejected by plate umpire Jeff Kellogg for hitting Freese in the ninth, along with Price.

“When Ohlendorf hit Freese, he said, ‘At some point, I have to do something,’” Price said. “As many guys as got hit tonight, you knew something was going to happen. I don’t have beef with the ejection.”

McCutchen’s homer in the fourth inning was his 26th career homer against Cincinnati, his most against any team. He also homered during the All-Star Game at Great American Ball Park last July.

Four batters after McCutchen’s homer, Alfredo Simon hit Kang with a pitch. In the bottom of the inning, Juan Nicasio hit Brandon Phillips in the upper leg with his first pitch, drawing loud boos from the crowd of 14,694 and a warning to both benches. Jay Bruce followed with his opposite-field homer that tied Adam Dunn’s career record of 126 at Great American Ball Park.

Pittsburgh’s Marte and Sean Rodriguez and Cincinnati’s Adam Duvall later were nicked by pitches, but there were no ejections until Ohlendorf in the ninth.

Marte was called safe while trying to steal second base in the sixth inning, but the decision was overturned on review. Hurdle was ejected while arguing the decision, and Marte was ejected while heading out to his position.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Pirates: Hurdle went ahead with his plan to start Freese at first base for the first time this season, replacing John Jaso in part because of his better career numbers against Simon.

Reds: Joey Votto got his first day off from the starting lineup. He pinch-hit and walked in the ninth.

UP NEXT

Pirates: After a day off, the Pirates open a weekend series at Wrigley Field with LH Francisco Liriano (3-1) facing Jason Hammel (4-0). Liriano is 5-2 in 11 career starts against the Cubs with a 2.27 ERA.

Reds: After a day off, the Reds open a weekend series in Philadelphia with LHP Brandon Finnegan (1-1) facing Jeremy Hellickson (2-2). The Reds have won seven in a row against the Phillies, including a season-opening sweep at Great American Ball Park.

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Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay

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