CINCINNATI -- Rookie Daniel McCutchen needed six starts and big assists from Lastings Milledge's bat and glove to break into the win column.
McCutchen pitched into the seventh inning for his first major league victory and Milledge homered and turned in a key defensive play, leading the Pittsburgh Pirates past the Cincinnati Reds 3-1 Friday.
"I got some big plays behind me," McCutchen said with Milledge sitting at the next cubicle in the visitors' clubhouse. "They gave me a chance."
Pittsburgh was leading 3-0 when Paul Janish led off the sixth inning with a double for the Reds. Joey Votto hit a sinking line drive to left field that Milledge caught knee-high and backhanded on a dead run.
"Defense is the thing I've taken the most pride in," Milledge said. "I just tried to cut the ball off. I could have taken a deeper route, but if it got past me, it would have only been a double anyway, so I went after it."
Said McCutchen: "If he doesn't get it, it's a double, the run scores and it's a completely different ballgame."
Reds manager Dusty Baker also was impressed.
"I didn't think he had a chance to catch it," Baker said. "It was slicing away from him. It saved the game. That was the key to the ballgame."
Andy LaRoche drove in two runs despite twice being thrown out trying to stretch singles into doubles as the Pirates picked up their fifth win in their last six games. The win guaranteed the Pirates will avoid 100 losses.
"When all is said and done, it is important, but we wanted to finish over .500 this last week or so," Milledge said. "A hundred losses or not, we wanted to finish strong. We're all playing for a spot on the roster. No one has a [guaranteed ] job on this team."
McCutchen (1-2) made his major league debut with a no-decision at Cincinnati on Aug. 31, and had been winless in five starts for Pittsburgh. He held the Reds scoreless until Wladimir Balentien's 467-foot home run.
"It shouldn't have taken six starts," McCutchen said. "I guess the sixth time's the charm. It feels good to get it out of the way."
Manager John Russell credited McCutchen's aggressiveness.
"The first nine hitters, McCutchen threw eight or nine first-pitch strikes," Russell said. "We talked to him about getting ahead of hitters. He's thrown the ball pretty well for us. He just hasn't had a win."
McCutchen allowed four hits, walked two and struck out five. Jesse Chavez finished the seventh, Joel Hanrahan pitched a perfect eighth and Matt Capps closed for his 27th save.
Justin Lehr (5-3), starting in place of blister-plagued lefty Matt Maloney, allowed three runs and four hits in six innings.
Pittsburgh took a 2-0 lead in the third on McCutchen's leadoff walk, Andrew McCutchen's double and LaRoche's two-run single into the left-field corner. LaRoche was nailed by Balentien at second on the play -- right fielder Jay Bruce threw out LaRoche to end the eighth inning.
Milledge led off the fourth with his fourth homer of the season, and third against the Reds.
The Reds had gone 20 consecutive scoreless innings before Balentien homered.
The Reds fired pitching coach Dick Pole before the game. He was in his third season with the team. The rest of the coaches will return in their same roles next season. ... Reds LHP Arthur Rhodes will miss the rest of the season because of broken left big toe he sustained Sept. 4. Rhodes is 1-1 with a 2.53 ERA in 66 games. ... RHP Jeff Karstens will start Sunday's season finale for Pittsburgh. A rib cage injury will keep RHP Kevin Hart, the unofficially projected starter, from making the start. Karstens is 4-5 with a 5.37 ERA in 38 games, including 12 starts.