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Sat, Jun 1, 2013 - 7:15 PM ET
 

Reds-Pirates Preview

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There wasn't much for the Pittsburgh Pirates to celebrate in their 1,000th game at PNC Park, but they still finished their best month in 21 seasons.

Francisco Liriano will try to get the Pirates off to a good start in June when their series with the Cincinnati Reds continues Saturday night.

After winning six straight and 10 of 11 at home, Pittsburgh (34-21) fell 6-0 on Friday for its fifth loss in 21 games overall.

The Pirates had one hit, a fifth-inning single by Brandon Inge, for their fewest since Cincinnati's Homer Bailey threw a no-hitter and won 1-0 at PNC on Sept. 27.

"Luckily Brandon saved us all with a half-swing base hit," second baseman Neil Walker said. "Maybe we should all have half-swinged tonight. Nothing else really worked for us."

Still, the Pirates finished May with a 19-9 mark for their best month since going 21-8 in September 1992, the last year they made the postseason.

The Pirates are tied with the Reds (34-21) for second in the NL Central behind St. Louis, giving the division three teams with winning percentages of .600 or better through May 31. It's the first time that's happened since Boston, New York and Baltimore were over .600 heading into June in 1986.

Pittsburgh will try to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time since May 8-9 with Liriano (3-1, 2.35 ERA) looking to rebound from his worst outing of the season.

The left-hander surrendered four runs and eight hits in five innings of Monday's 6-5 loss at Detroit. Liriano had a 1.00 ERA in his first three starts.

"I know that I've got to hit my spots and make good pitches if I don't want to get beaten up," he said.

Liriano has never faced the Reds or second baseman Brandon Phillips, who's batting .448 (13 for 29) with four homers and nine RBIs in a seven-game hitting streak against Pittsburgh.

Phillips went 2 for 4 with a solo homer and Jay Bruce also homered Friday to help Cincinnati avoid a third consecutive loss and win for the first time in four tries at Pittsburgh this season.

Mike Leake (4-2, 3.02) will try to build on Johnny Cueto's brilliant eight-inning performance when he gets the ball Saturday. He's 2-0 with a 0.43 ERA in his last three outings after striking out a season high-tying seven with no walks while not receiving a decision in Monday's 4-2 win over Cleveland.

"He's been lights out lately," shortstop Zack Cozart told the Reds' official website of the right-hander, who allowed one earned run in 7 1-3 innings. "He's pounding the zone, and I think when you do that, you keep your defense in the game and you get ahead of guys. And when you get ahead of guys, it's proven that you're successful, and I think that's what he's doing."

This will be Leake's second start against the Pirates in 2013. He didn't factor in the decision after allowing season highs of five runs and 10 hits in a 6-5 loss at Pittsburgh on April 12.

Walker had two hits off Leake that night to improve to 9 for 23 (.391) in their matchups.

Left fielder Alex Presley, 6 for 15 with two homers, a triple and a double against Leake, could get the start after getting called up from Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday.

Pittsburgh is 488-512 at PNC since it opened with an 8-2 loss to the Reds on April 9, 2001.

Tagged: Reds, Pirates, Brandon Inge, Brandon Phillips, Francisco Liriano, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake

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