PITTSBURGH (AP) - Francisco Liriano found a simple approach for getting his first win since opening day - throwing strikes.
Liriano pitched 6 2/3 strong innings and John Jaso homered to open the bottom of the first as Pittsburgh beat Cincinnati 5-1 Saturday night for the Pirates’ sixth straight win and the Reds’ sixth consecutive loss.
In his first win since April 3 when he pitched six scoreless innings against St. Louis, Liriano (2-1) held the Reds to five hits and struck out six while walking none after allowing 17 bases on balls in his first four starts.
“I was just concentrating on throwing first-pitch strikes and getting hitters out in three pitches or less,” Liriano said. “I had good fastball command. I worked on its between starts. When I have good fastball command, it makes everything better.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was pleased with Liriano’s outing. Even when the left-hander won in the opener with 10 strikeouts, he also had five walks.
“We’ve seen him have these kinds of games in the past, just not this year,” Hurdle said. “He really did a good job of attacking the strike zone and being efficient with his pitches. When he does those things, he can be very tough to beat.”
Jaso hit the first pitch of the game from Alfredo Simon (0-3) out to right-center field for his first home run of the season. It was also his fifth career homer leading off the first and came after Jaso spent extra time working on his swing with hitting coach Jeff Branson prior to the game.
“You’re always hoping to get results but you never expect it that quickly,” Jaso said.
Simon lowered his ERA to 13.50 from 16.39 by allowing three runs and six-plus innings. He walked four and struck out four.
Francisco Cervelli’s RBI single in the fifth for the Pirates snapped a 1-1 tie and chased Simon. Josh Harrison added a sacrifice fly later in the inning.
Cervelli and David Freese each had two hits of the Pirates’ 10 hits.
Sean Rodriguez hit a two-run homer, his fourth, in the eighth to make it 5-1 after entering the game in the top of the inning at first base as a defensive replacement for Jaso.
Mark Melancon got the last out for his seventh save, striking out Zack Cozart with runners on first and second.
Billy Hamilton had three hits for the Reds and scored their only run in the fifth, tying it at 1 when he came around from first base on Cozart’s double. Cincinnati has scored just 10 runs during its losing streak.
“We kept it close but we just couldn’t crack the Pirates’ pitching staff,” Reds manager Bryan Price said.
The Pirates’ Jordy Mercer extended his hitting streak to seven games.
Reds: RHP Raisel Iglesias (right shoulder impingement) has been scratched from his scheduled start Sunday against the Pirates in the finale of the three-game series but may not need to be placed on the disabled list. … RHP Anthony DeSclafani (strained oblique) felt tightness in his side late in his rehab start Friday when he pitched five scoreless innings for Class A Dayton and will be evaluated by the team’s medical staff. … C Devin Mesoraco (sore left shoulder) missed his second straight game but could be in the lineup Sunday.
Pirates: RHP Jared Hughes (strained left lat muscle), who was injured late in spring training, was activated from the 15-day disabled list and RHP Rob Scahill was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis.
Major League Baseball medical director Gary Green held an hour-long meeting with the Pirates prior to the game. Players from both the Pirates and Miami Marlins have expressed concerns about playing their scheduled two-game series in San Juan, Puerto Rico, from May 30-31 over fears of contracting the Zika virus.
According to the Center for Disease Control, Zika can cause a birth defect called microcephaly, which causes infants to be born with very small heads and underdeveloped brains. The virus is spread by mosquito bites and sexual intercourse and those infected might not show symptoms, which can heighten the risk of spreading the infection.
PLAY OF THE DAY
Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips made an outstanding play to retire Jaso in the sixth inning. He charged a slow roller and made a behind-the-back throw to first baseman Joey Votto.
Reds: RHP Tim Melville (0-1, 11.00), who made his major league debut April 10 against the Pirates, will be called up from Triple-A Louisville to replace Iglesias.
Pirates: LHP Jeff Locke (1-2, 5.03) is coming off his first win of the season as he pitched six shutout innings Monday night at Colorado after having a 7.24 ERA in his first three starts.
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