PITTSBURGH -- A perfect game into the sixth inning, and a complete game by a pitcher who had never lasted longer than six innings in the majors. It all came together in one excellent night for Matt Belisle, who even got an RBI on a ball that traveled one foot.
Belisle, a converted reliever making his only 12th career start, didn't allow a baserunner until the sixth before finishing with a five-hitter in his first complete game and the Cincinnati Reds ended Pittsburgh's five-game winning streak with an 8-1 decision Saturday night.
Belisle (3-1) hadn't gotten more than 18 outs in any of his 100 previous major league appearances, yet retired the Pirates' first 16 batters until Ronny Paulino doubled into the right-center gap with Cincinnati up 5-0 in the sixth. The right-handed Belisle struck out five and walked none, a big turnaround after giving up nine runs in 10 1/3 innings in his previous two starts.
"He was phenomenal," said Jeff Conine, who supported Belisle with a pair of doubles.
Efficient, too, as Belisle needed only 91 pitches, 66 for strikes.
"I wanted to come out real aggressive and make them swing and that's what they were doing," Belisle said. "That's how it went and we got a lot of outs. All I know it was a great flow, a great rhythm, we were rolling and it was a lot of fun."
Even when Belisle didn't do what he was supposed to do at the plate, it all worked out.
Early on, it looked like a developing pitchers' duel between Belisle and Pittsburgh's Tom Gorzelanny (3-1), who retired the first 11 he faced until Josh Hamilton walked and scored on Conine's double in the fourth.
But some sloppy Pirates defense led to a four-run Reds fifth -- a breakout inning the NL's worst-hitting team was looking after losing seven of its previous nine.
Gorzelanny walked Adam Dunn and David Ross singled with one out, before Belisle failed twice to put down a squeeze bunt. On Belisle's third bunt attempt, he stood in the batter's box after barely tipping the ball in front of the plate, thinking it would go foul, but umpire Bill Welke ruled fair and Paulino tagged him.
Paulino then saw Ross breaking for second and instinctively threw there, allowing Dunn to break for the plate and score on a batted ball that traveled about a foot.
"It was kind of a strange play, the guys were all over me," Belisle said. "It was the first RBI I've had and what a way to get it."
Pirates manager Jim Tracy didn't criticize Paulino, but said, "If he throws to second -- and doesn't tag him -- we have a 2-6-3 double play and we're out of it."
The misplay apparently unnerved Gorzelanny, who then allowed three consecutive hits to score two more runs before balking in another run. Ryan Freel and Brandon Phillips singled ahead of Josh Hamilton's two-run double.
"It was one of those things where I needed to bear down and get out of the inning, but some of my pitches didn't work," Gorzelanny said.
That four-run inning was plenty enough support for Belisle, who has beaten the Pirates for two of his three victories this season -- he held them to one run in six innings of a 6-1 victory on April 6. He has been effective against them as a reliever, too, and has a 5-1 career record against them.
"The last couple of times out he didn't trust his fastball enough, and tonight he did," manager Jerry Narron said. "He was as efficient as he could possibly be. He faced 30 batters and threw 23 first-pitch strikes. That is outstanding."
The Reds added three runs in the final two innings against the Pirates' bullpen.
Belisle evened his career record at 10-10. ... OF Ken Griffey Jr. didn't start for a third consecutive game because of pleurisy, an inflammation in the lining of a cavity surrounding the lungs. ... The Pirates haven't won six in a row since they took 10 straight in late June and early July 2004. ... Freddy Sanchez, last year's NL batting champion, halted an 0-for-12 streak with a single in the seventh for Pittsburgh. ... The Reds had lost eight of their last 10 in PNC Park. ... Opposing batters had a .364 average against Belisle in his two previous starts.