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Cincinnati at Pittsburgh

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Cincinnati (13-13)000000110280
Pittsburgh (12-15) «00200010x360

Pirates 3, Reds 2

CBSSports.com wire reports
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PITTSBURGH -- James McDonald doesn't consider himself a strikeout pitcher.

Funny, he's sure starting to look like one.

The Pittsburgh Pirates' right-hander extended his strong start, striking out seven in 6 1/3 innings and relying on his defense for the rest in a 3-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday night.

McDonald (2-1) has 25 strikeouts over his last three games and is growing into Pittsburgh's most reliable starter.

"James gave us just what we needed again tonight," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

Neil Walker had two hits, including his first homer since last September, and Alex Presley added a solo shot for Pittsburgh. Joel Hanrahan worked a perfect ninth for his fifth save as the Pirates continued their weird start.

Save for a brief two-game slide in St. Louis earlier this week, Pittsburgh has alternated wins and losses since April 18. Most of the games have followed a similar script -- six have been decided by three runs or less.

"You think, let's get that one hit, something to break it open," Hurdle said. "That's not where we're living right now."

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Instead, the Pirates are getting by with pitching and defense. They turned four double plays -- only one of them conventional - and received a big boost on Jose Tabata's running grab to end the sixth that preserved a one-run lead.

"This might be one of the better games we played, and needed to play, to win the game," Hurdle said. "It was above and beyond what you normally get. Those are big-time plays. We needed every one of them."

Cincinnati starter Mike Leake (0-4) remained winless but showed improvement after a rough opening month, allowing three runs and four hits in seven innings. He walked four and struck out four.

"It's definitely a step in the right direction," said Leake, whose ERA dropped from 6.65 to 5.97. "Even though I had four walks, I was still happy with the way I threw the ball. I had a couple more mistakes than what showed, but they made me pay for two of them."

Walker hadn't homered since Sept. 4, 2011, but his two-run shot in the third gave McDonald an early cushion before Pittsburgh's bullpen staved off a late Cincinnati rally.

Though the switch-hitting Walker isn't a power hitter, he's a vital part of Pittsburgh's offense. His drought included a homerless spring training, too.

"I was looking for a pitch up and got it and was able to get the barrel on it and get it in the seats," Walker said.

Joey Votto had two hits for the Reds, but Cincinnati was undone by some slick Pittsburgh glovework and the quickly maturing McDonald.

The 27-year-old right-hander is beginning to harness his control, a problem that's plagued him early in his career and made it difficult for him to pitch deep into games.

There were no issues on Saturday, as he worked into the seventh for his third straight start before running into trouble after Jay Bruce tripled and scored on Scott Rolen's single.

Juan Cruz came on in relief and escaped further damage when Ryan Ludwick lined to center and Rolen was tagged out at second trying to advance.

The Reds drew within one in the eighth against Jason Grilli when Zack Cozart doubled home Devin Mesoraco. Grilli struck out Drew Stubbs and intentionally walked Votto to get to Brandon Phillips, who struck out swinging as Grilli pumped his fist.

Hanrahan retired Cincinnati in order in the ninth to blunt the Reds' momentum. Cincinnati came in 7-3 in its last 10 games to move over .500 for the first time in a month.

The Reds, however, couldn't get two games over .500 for the first time all season after running into trouble on the basepaths.

Votto ran into a double play in the fourth when Pittsburgh first baseman Casey McGehee grabbed Bruce's grounder, stepped on first and fired home, where catcher Rod Barajas blocked the plate perfectly.

Rolen had similar issues in the seventh after trying to tag up and go from first to second on a fly ball by Ludwick. Andrew McCutchen's throw from center easily beat Rolen to the bag.

"I think we hit into two [double plays] and ran into two more. There's eight outs right there," manager Dusty Baker said. "You usually don't win when you run into that many double plays."

Notes

The series concludes Sunday. Mat Latos (1-2, 5.97 ERA) starts for Cincinnati against Charlie Morton (1-2, 4.22). ... Rolen's next double will be the 506th of his career and will tie him with Babe Ruth for 48th place. ... Pittsburgh 3B Pedro Alvarez went 0 for 2 with two walks in his first game batting cleanup this season.

 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
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Players of the Game
Pittsburgh

N. Walker
AB 4
R 1
H 2
HR 1
RBI 2
Cincinnati

J. Votto
AB 3
R 0
H 2
HR 0
RBI 0
 
Cincinnati Reds
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Zack Cozart, SS4011011 .273
Drew Stubbs, CF4010031 .242
Joey Votto, 1B3020101 .295
Brandon Phillips, 2B3000113 .227
Jay Bruce, RF4110003 .302
Scott Rolen, 3B3011110 .188
Ryan Ludwick, LF4000012 .185
Devin Mesoraco, C3110010 .270
Mike Leake, P2010010 .222
   a- Chris Heisey, PH1000001 .218
    Jose Arredondo, P0000000 .000
Totals3128239  
a-flied out for Leake in the 8th
Batting
2B - Zack Cozart (8, Grilli), Joey Votto (12, McDonald)
3B - Jay Bruce (1, McDonald)
RBI - Zack Cozart (6), Scott Rolen (10)
Team LOB - 5
Fielding
DP - Cozart-B. Phillips-Votto
Cincinnati Reds
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Mike Leake (L,0-4) 7433442 5.97
Jose Arredondo 1200220 2.13
Pitches-Strikes - Mike Leake 94-59, Jose Arredondo 30-15
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Mike Leake 11-5
Batters Faced - Mike Leake 28, Jose Arredondo 6
Pittsburgh Pirates
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Jose Tabata, LF-RF3110100 .236
Neil Walker, 2B4122011 .286
Andrew McCutchen, CF3010110 .298
Pedro Alvarez, 3B2000201 .253
Casey McGehee, 1B3010112 .281
Garrett Jones, RF3000003 .277
    Juan Cruz, P0000000 .000
    Jason Grilli, P0000000 .000
   a- Nate McLouth, PH0000100 .206
    Joel Hanrahan, P0000000 .000
Clint Barmes, SS4000024 .171
Rod Barajas, C3000000 .133
James McDonald, P2000010 .182
    Alex Presley, LF1111000 .253
Totals2836366  
a-walked for Grilli in the 8th
Batting
2B - Jose Tabata (5, Leake)
HR - Neil Walker (1, Leake), Alex Presley (2, Leake)
RBI - Neil Walker 2 (8), Alex Presley (7)
2-OUT RBI - Neil Walker 2 (7), Alex Presley (5)
PK - Andrew McCutchen (1, Arredondo)
Team LOB - 7
Fielding
Outfield Assists - Andrew McCutchen 1
DP - McGehee-Barajas, Barmes-Walker-McGehee, Barmes-McGehee, A. McCutchen-Walker
Pittsburgh Pirates
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
James McDonald (W,2-1) 6.1611270 2.70
Juan Cruz (H,4) 0.2000000 0.00
Jason Grilli (H,6) 1211120 3.27
Joel Hanrahan (S,5) 1000000 3.00
IBB - Votto by Jason Grilli
Pitches-Strikes - James McDonald 99-67, Juan Cruz 1-1, Jason Grilli 18-10, Joel Hanrahan 16-9
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - James McDonald 6-3
Batters Faced - James McDonald 24, Juan Cruz 1, Jason Grilli 6, Joel Hanrahan 3
Game Information
Attendance - 33019
Game Time - 2:36
Temperature - 77
Umpires - Home - Ron Kulpa, First Base - Jim Wolf, Second Base - Derryl Cousins, Third Base - Al Porter