Leake, Reds blank Bucs, who drop 5th straight

Leake, Reds blank Bucs, who drop 5th straight

PITTSBURGH -- Marlon Byrd homered in his third straight game, including the first two of this series, and right-hander Mike Leake helped himself with a two-out RBI double as the Reds upended the Pirates, 3-0, Wednesday night at PNC Park.

As their losing streak reached five straight, the Bucs' biggest threat against Leake was aborted on a call by plate umpire Chris Conroy, who called out Gregory Polanco for running to first inside the baseline for the final out of the seventh inning.

Leake stretched his shutout streak to 16 innings in winning his second straight start, giving up six hits while fanning two and not issuing a walk over eight frames. For the Pirates, Gerrit Cole went five innings, only the second time since last July 6 that he did not pitch into the sixth, both against the Reds. He allowed eight hits and three runs, striking out four and walking two (both intentionally).

"They were on their game. They hit good pitches and crushed mistakes," said Cole, who had a personal streak of eight wins dating back to last season come to an end.

Leake shuts down the Pirates

Buccos run taken off the board: In the seventh inning, Francisco Cervelli had already crossed the plate -- but Conroy crossed out the Bucs' first run. Conroy called Polanco out for running inside the baseline after he had topped a ball fielded by Leake, whose throw hit him in the back. Replays showed Polanco sprinting right at the bag. It was the third out of the inning, and the Reds returned to their dugout still up 3-0. More >

Leake gets Polanco

Cole-Leake redux: Already down, 1-0, the Pirates tried to limit the fourth-inning damage by having Cole issue an intentional two-out walk to No. 8 hitter Tucker Barnhart and pitch to Leake with men on first and third. Leake foiled the strategy by depositing an RBI ground-rule double in the left-field seats. The hit made Leake 3-for-6 lifetime off Cole, including a two-run homer on April 15, 2014.

"I picked the wrong hitter to go at," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of the decision to go after Leake. "That's on me."

Leake said he was not bothered by the intentional walk to face him.

"I'm starting to see the ball a little better and put some good at-bats together," Leake said. "I was just trying to get a pitch in my zone that I liked. He hung one for me."

Leake's RBI double

Heads-up play: The Reds' first run of the fourth inning was created, in part, by Brandon Phillips. On first base as Pittsburgh employed an infield shift when Jay Bruce grounded out to shortstop, Phillips alertly kept running to an unattended third base. It set him up to score on Leake's double.

Phillips takes third base

Big Byrd: Byrd's homer to left field in the fifth inning gave him a long ball in each of his last three games, and he also had his third straight game of at least two hits. In his last 11 games, Byrd is batting .325 (13-for-40) with five homers and 10 RBIs after a rough start to his season.

"It's nice to play them five times and have five wins. That's a good sign, especially with the way they pitch. They can pitch with the best of them, and we've been able to find a way to grind out some wins. That's certainly been important to our status at this point in time." -- Reds manager Bryan Price, on his 14-13 club being 5-0 this season vs. the Pirates

"We're built to compete, and we believe in ourselves. We've been in tough situations before, and know the way out of them." -- Hurdle, on the Pirates dropping three games below .500 (12-15)

Jung Ho Kang went 2-for-4, including a ninth-inning double off Aroldis Chapman, and in nine starts has put up a slash line of .355/.424/.548. More >

Kang's double off Chapman

After striking out to end the top of the third inning, Reds first baseman Joey Votto was ejected by Conroy. Votto, who had already spiked his helmet, had his back turned from Conroy as he yelled toward Cole in the Pirates' dugout and didn't see the umpire throw him out of the game. Votto charged Conroy and made contact as he argued. More >

Votto's ejection

Reds: Anthony DeSclafani will be trying to put back-to-back subpar starts behind him when he returns to the mound to face the Pirates at 7:05 p.m. ET on Thursday in the series finale. DeSclafani has given up nine earned runs and nine hits over his last 10 innings after a strong start to the season. He faced Pittsburgh in his season debut on April 9, allowing two runs over six strong innings.

Pirates: A.J. Burnett, officially MLB's best winless starter with his 1.45 ERA in five starts, will try to shed that distinction when he faces the Reds. He is looking for his first win in 10 starts, since a 3-1 decision on Sept. 6 in Washington with the Phillies.

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Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.