PITTSBURGH -- Five starts, and nothing resembling a bad one for the Pittsburgh Pirates' Ian Snell. His manager thinks it could be the start of a special season for a maturing, confident pitcher who looks to be developing into one of the NL's best young starters.
Snell limited the Cincinnati Reds to six hits over seven shutout innings in another excellent outing, and Jason Bay's two-run double got the Pirates going in the first inning of a 3-1 victory on Friday night.
"This guy's becoming something very special," manager Jim Tracy said of Snell, whose 1.59 ERA is among the lowest in the majors. "This guy has come so far in a short period of time and he should be given a lot of credit. He likes challenges an awful lot."
The Reds, down 3-0 before starter Eric Milton (0-4) retired his second batter, lost their third straight and seventh in nine games.
Despite getting another scare from slumping closer Salomon Torres, the Pirates held on to match their longest winning streak of last season, winning their fifth in a row to move above .500 at 11-10. That might be a modest achievement for some teams, but represents a turnaround for one that was 5-16 and nine games out of first place a year ago.
They're doing it without much offense; their .239 team batting average is lower than that of any NL team but the Reds (.235).
Pittsburgh knew its young pitching staff -- all but one starter is 25 or younger -- was the key to the season, and so far it has been. Those starters have gone 4-0 on the current home stand, allowing two runs in 28 innings -- an 0.64 ERA.
"I know I'm more comfortable and more relaxed," Snell said.
Snell (2-1) who won 14 games in his first full major league season, should finish April with a 1.59 ERA, after not allowing more than two runs in any start and lasting at least seven innings all but once.
Still, the 25-year-old Snell doesn't want to hear any talk about what he might do this season, saying it's too much too early.
"They should expect good things, but I don't want to put too much pressure on myself," he said.
Torres may be doing that after blowing three saves in his last five chances. He was pulled in a non-save situation Thursday after giving up two runs in the ninth of a 5-3 victory over Houston, and the night before that, he gave away a 3-1 lead in the ninth of a game the Pirates didn't win until the 16th, beating the Astros 4-3.
On Friday, Torres got off to another bad start by giving up Adam Dunn's fifth homer on his first pitch of the ninth. Javier Valentin singled a batter later, but Torres held on to get his seventh save in 10 opportunities.
"I got three hard outs, but they were outs. The next time out, it's going to be better," Torres said. "We got the save, and we got the win, and that's all that counts. It was very nice for me to get that out of the way, especially after the last two nights. I'll take saves anywhere I can get them right now."
Milton is 1-6 in his career against Pittsburgh with two losses this season, and is 16-27 since signing a $25 million, three-year deal with the Reds. However, he's not getting a lot of support, either.
"I feel like there's guys ready to break out, and we'll start putting together some big innings," Scott Hatteberg said. "I wish I could say it's tomorrow. I hope it is."
Snell worked out of two major jams, in the second (bases loaded, two outs) and sixth (runners on first and second, none out). The Reds stranded nine runners.
"It seems like the other clubs have been getting hits when they need them and we don't," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "We just couldn't get anything to fall."
- Damaso Marte followed Snell with a scoreless eighth.
- The Pirates have won eight of their last 10 against the Reds in Pittsburgh.
- Bay is 10-for-23 with nine RBI against Milton.
- Pittsburgh's last five-game winning streak in April came in 2002, also the last time they had a winning record (14-10) during the month. The five-game winning streak matches the Pirates' longest of last season, achieved twice -- once in July and again in September.
- Ken Griffey Jr. remained out of the Reds' lineup for a second day with pleurisy, an inflammation in the lining of a cavity surrounding the lungs, but walked as a pinch-hitter in the seventh.
- All the Pirates wore No. 42 in honor of Jackie Robinson. A planned tribute was rained out April 15.