CINCINNATI (AP) — The National League’s lowliest lineup is starting to flex some muscle.
Clint Barmes had three hits and drove in three runs, and the Pittsburgh Pirates extended their home-run tear by hitting three more for an 8-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night.
Neil Walker hit a two-run homer, and Casey McGehee and Alex Presley had solo shots, giving the Pirates seven homers in their last two games and a feeling that the NL’s least-productive offense is starting to get itself together.
“It just shows what we’re capable of on offense,” Walker said. “Up and down the lineup, we’ve been able to relax a little more and go out and compete.”
A.J. Burnett (5-2) won his fourth straight start, beating the Reds for the second time in a week. He gave up three runs while pitching into the sixth inning, struggling to control his curveball much of the game.
“You want to go deeper into the game, especially when they get that kind of lead for you early,” Burnett said. “It’s a good sign for our offense today.”
Joey Votto singled home a run in the ninth off Juan Cruz, but Joel Hanrahan came on with two runners aboard and fanned the three batters he faced for his 15th save in 16 chances.
Pittsburgh scored six runs in only three innings off Homer Bailey (4-4), who had won his last three starts. It was his shortest outing of the season.
“It’s good to score early,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “It’s hard to take that team out of the game in this ballpark because they have confidence late.”
The Pirates have won eight of their last 10 games overall, moving two games behind first-place Cincinnati in the NL Central. It’s the closest the Pirates have been to first place since April 11.
Pittsburgh ranks last in the league in batting average, runs and hits, but has shown a little liveliness lately. The Pirates have scored at least six runs in four of their last eight games. They hit a season-high four homers for a 6-5 win in Milwaukee on Sunday, and followed that with three more on Tuesday.
The Pirates tweaked their lineup before the game, calling up outfielder Alex Presley to beat leadoff. He tripled and homered off J.J. Hoover.
Bailey was coming off one of his best performances in the majors, a four-hitter last Tuesday for an 8-1 win at Pittsburgh. It was his second career complete game, both of them coming at PNC Park.
This time, he didn’t even make it past the third inning.
“My fastball was up a little bit, and I couldn’t get the feel of my slider and curveball,” Bailey said. “When you have a night like that, they’re usually short.”
Bailey gave up eight hits and six runs, matching his season high. Barmes had an RBI double in the second, and Walker hit a two-run homer in the third. Barmes made it 6-2 with a bases-loaded, two-out single in the third on a 1-2 pitch from Bailey.
“The big blow was the two-out, two-run single by Barmes,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “If not for that, Homer might’ve been able to stay in the game. He had trouble locating his fastball, and his secondary pitches weren’t as good as they had been.”
Votto singled home a run in the first inning, extending his hitting streak to a season-best 11 games. The Reds again had trouble with Burnett, who beat them 2-1 last Wednesday at PNC Park by going seven innings.
Burnett allowed only five hits but walked four and left after facing two batters in the sixth, his pitch count already at 100.
The Reds played a video tribute and held a moment of silence before the game to honor reliever Pedro Borbon, who died from cancer on Monday at his home in Texas. Borbon was a key reliever on the Big Red Machine.
NOTES: The Pirates optioned Gorkys Hernandez to Triple-A. … Pittsburgh’s Josh Harrison, who grew up in Cincinnati, met high school teammates on the field before the game and got a loud ovation when he pinch-hit in the eighth. … The Red Hot Chili Peppers took batting practice before the game at the invitation of Reds RH Bronson Arroyo, a music enthusiast who is a friend of group member Josh Klinghoffer. The group performs in Cincinnati on Wednesday. … 3B Scott Rolen has started hitting off a tee and taking infield practice. Rolen has been on the DL since May 12 with an inflamed left shoulder. … Reds CF Drew Stubbs said he felt a pain in his left side on a swing in the seventh inning. He was replaced by Wilson Valdez in the eighth.