PITTSBURGH (AP) - Cincinnati signed Alfredo Simon as a free agent during spring training hoping he could recapture the magic of 2014 he won 15 games for the Reds and pitched in the All-Star Game.
It hasn’t worked out so far.
Francisco Liriano won for the first time since opening day and John Jaso homered to open the bottom of the first as Pittsburgh beat Cincinnati 5-1 for the Pirates’ sixth straight win and the Reds’ sixth consecutive loss.
Simon (0-3), who the Reds traded to Detroit following the 2014 season, lasted just four-plus innings and allowed three runs and six hits while walking four and striking out four. However, he did lower his ERA to 13.50 from 16.39 on Saturday night.
Francisco Cervelli’s RBI single in the fifth snapped a 1-1 tie and chased Simon. Josh Harrison added a sacrifice fly later in the inning.
“We really wanted to try to get (Simon) through that inning to kind of shorten the game for the bullpen,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “We also wanted him to turn the corner. We know he’s the one veteran on a young staff. He’s got to be the workhorse, eat up some innings.”
Liriano (2-1) allowed one run in 6 2/3 innings for his first win since April 3 when he pitched six scoreless innings against St. Louis. The left-hander also 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.”
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 Zack 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,” Price said.
Jaso hit the first pitch of the game from Simon out to right-center field for his first home run of the season. It was also his fifth career homer leading off the first. Simon left the clubhouse by the time it opened to the media.
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 Cozart with runners on first and second.
The Pirates’ Jordy Mercer extended his hitting streak to seven games.
Reds: RHP Raisel Iglesias (right shoulder impingement) will miss his scheduled start Sunday in the finale of the three-game series but may not need to go 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.
“I was Chris Paul-ing it there,” Phillips said, referring to the Los Angles Clippers’ star point guard.
Reds: RHP Tim Melville (0-1, 11.00), who made his major debut April 10 against the Pirates, will be called up from Triple-A Louisville to start in Iglesias’ place.
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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