6/19/2014 4:50 P.M. ET
Reds' wild game features Hoover's odd walk
By Stephen Pianovich and Spencer Fordin / MLB.com
PITTSBURGH -- Baseball has a tendency to get weird, especially when the outcome is a foregone conclusion and a few hundred fans are left in the stadium with the clock nearing midnight after a rain delay.
Trailing by six runs with their bullpen already gassed, the Pirates turned to right fielder Travis Snider to pitch the ninth inning of Wednesday night's 11-4 loss to the Reds. A position player taking the mound in a blowout isn't all that much of an oddity, but couple it with a relief pitcher in the batter's box and you've got a quirky concoction straight out of baseball's twilight zone.
Reds reliever J.J. Hoover entered the game in the seventh after the one-hour, 15-minute rain delay, and in an effort to save other arms, manager Bryan Price tasked Hoover with finishing the game. The pitcher's spot was due up third in the ninth against Snider, and in his first Major League plate appearance, Hoover drew a six-pitch walk.
"I know that over the course of my years in this game, I've seen a lot of things," Price said. "But seeing Hoover get his first Major League at-bat against an outfielder ... I can't remember seeing anything remotely close to that."
Hoover, who was 0-for-17 with 14 strikeouts in the Minor Leagues, reached base for the first time in his professional career. A native of Elizabeth, Pa., a town just south of Pittsburgh on the Monongahela River, Hoover had some friends and family at the game who stuck around and were loudly chanting, "J.J.!" during his plate appearance. And though he didn't make contact, his first Major League plate appearance was a memorable one.
"I was still late on 84 [mph], I couldn't imagine someone throwing 95," Hoover joked.
Hoover's offensive adventure was not over at first base, as the next batter, Billy Hamilton, grounded a double to left field. With possibly the Majors' fastest player behind him, Hoover (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) went from first to third in a sprint that featured a moment of hesitation that his teammates aren't going to let him forget about anytime soon.
"They've been joking around with me about going first to third," said Hoover, who is the proud owner of a career 1.000 on-base percentage. "I kind of stuttered at second, because I saw the ball on the ground, and decided to take third. It was a lot of fun."
Hoover ended up scoring on the next play, a Todd Frazier single.
After Hoover crossed the plate, the inning took another turn for the bizarre, as Snider struck out four-time All-Star and 2010 National League Most Valuable Player Award winner Joey Votto. Somehow, it seemed like an appropriate ending, and one that only baseball could provide.
Reds sign first-round pick Blandino
The Reds have reached agreement with Alex Blandino, their second selection in the first round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, according to MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo.
Blandino, an infielder out of Stanford and the No. 29 overall pick, signed a contract worth $1,788,000, which is equal to the slotting value for that Draft position.
The Reds have not confirmed the agreement.
Blandino batted .310 with 12 home runs as a junior, and he was named a freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball after the 2012 campaign. Blandino was originally drafted by the A's in 2011 in the 38th round out of high school, but he elected not to sign and to attend college instead.
Back tightness keeps Ludwick out of lineup
PITTSBURGH -- Ryan Ludwick was a late scratch from the Reds' lineup on Thursday due to tightness in his back. It was just a precautionary move, as Ludwick was still available and entered as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning.
With a runners on first and second, Ludwick had a chance to tie the game or give the Reds the lead, but he grounded out to second to end the road half of the seventh.
Chris Heisey replaced Ludwick as the starter in left field and was slotted at seventh in the order. Catcher Devin Mesoraco was bumped up one spot to sixth.
Ludwick has been producing lately for Bryan Price's club. He had a .419 June average entering Thursday and eight hits in his previous four games, including a four-hit showing with three doubles against the Brewers on Sunday. Ludwick, a 12-year Major League veteran, is hitting .276 with five homers and 21 RBIs in his third season with Cincinnati.
• The Reds improved to .500 on Wednesday, reaching the mark for the first time since April 24, when they were 11-11. A deeper look at some team stats shows that the Reds are close to even in more in just the overall win-loss column.
Cincinnati is 17-17 at home, 18-18 on the road, 13-14 in one-run games and 9-9 in contests decided by five or more runs. The Reds have also scored 263 runs, compared to 264 allowed entering Thursday's series finale against Pittsburgh.
• Hamilton recorded four straight multihit games entering Thursday, with three knocks in each of his last three. He's hitting .579 in that quartet of contests with two homers and six RBIs, and he's upped his season average from .251 to .278.
Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.