Leake looks to continue strong June

Mike Leake has a 2.42 ERA in four June starts.

Although the dominant run by their pitchers ended, the Pittsburgh Pirates’ offense delivered a breakout performance to continue their home winning streak.

Now they may be able to begin a new outstanding stretch on the mound behind the major league leader in wins.

Gerrit Cole looks to win his seventh consecutive start as the Pirates try for their eighth straight home win Wednesday night against the Cincinnati Reds.

Pittsburgh hadn’t allowed a run in 30 innings at PNC Park before Jeff Locke gave up three in the first inning Tuesday. The club responded with seven of its own in the fourth for a series-opening 7-6 victory.

The Pirates totaled three runs in three losses at Washington before Andrew McCutchen and Francisco Cervelli homered during the big fourth.

"You lose like we did against the Nationals, you’re pretty amped up," said McCutchen, batting .471 in his last five home games. "Somewhat of a slow start, but that’s why you play the whole game."

The Pirates (40-30) appear to be good hands as Cole (11-2, 1.78 ERA) looks to help them reach their longest home winning streak since a 10-game run from June 28-July 18, 2004.

The right-hander has given up just five earned runs in 42 1-3 innings over a six-start winning streak. He’s looking to become the first Pirate to win seven in a row since A.J. Burnett won eight straight in 2012.

He yielded two runs and three hits over seven innings Thursday despite matching a season low with four strikeouts and a season high with three walks in a 3-2 road win over the Chicago White Sox.

Cole has gone 15-2 over his last 19 starts – easily baseball’s best record since Sept. 2.

"(The wins) are a testament to how well we’ve played as a team around me," he said after beating the White Sox. "I always go out there to give us a chance to win, but it’s a team accomplishment."

Cole’s only home loss came May 6 versus Cincinnati when he allowed three runs over five innings in a 3-0 defeat while opposing Mike Leake. He’s 0-2 with a 4.70 ERA in four starts against the Reds (32-37).

Former Pirate Marlon Byrd homered off him in that game and is 4 for 10 lifetime, while Brandon Phillips is 5 for 11 and Todd Frazier is 4 for 11 with two homers.

Jay Bruce is 12 for 25 with three home runs over his last six games after going 2 for 5 with his 12th home run Tuesday, but he has just one hit in nine at-bats when facing Cole.

The Reds will try to avoid their 15th loss in 18 road games as Leake (4-4, 4.01) looks to extend an 18-inning scoreless streak at PNC Park. The right-hander, 7-3 with a 3.10 ERA in 22 starts versus Pittsburgh, allowed six hits over eight shutout innings while opposing Cole in May.

Leake had another strong outing Friday when he gave up two hits and fanned seven over seven innings in a 5-0 home win over Miami. He’s 2-0 with a 2.42 ERA in four June starts.

McCutchen has seen Leake more than anyone, going 15 for 61 (.246) with two home runs. Starling Marte is 6 for 30 off him, while Gregory Polanco has gone 1 for 9.