CINCINNATI -- Led by 7 1/3 strong innings from right-hander Anthony DeSclafani and aided by four Pirates errors, the Reds continued their season-long mastery of the Bucs with a 3-1 win Monday afternoon at Great American Ball Park.
With the loss, the Pirates remained 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Cardinals in the National League Central standings, but their lead over the Cubs for the first NL Wild Card spot shrank to two games -- with Chicago defeating St. Louis, 9-0, on Monday.
DeSclafani held the Pirates to one run on seven hits and struck out six, and the Reds gave him all the support he needed in a three-run second inning in which the Bucs committed a pair of costly errors. It was DeSclafani's team-leading 16th quality start of the season, his seventh in his last nine outings, and improved the Reds' record against the Pirates this season to 10-4.
"The difference-maker for me these last few games was the curveball," said DeSclafani, who improved to 8-10 with a 3.75 ERA in 27 starts. "It's probably the best it's been all year these last few games. It's kind of been the equalizer for me."
Left-hander Jeff Locke fell victim to the Pirates' season-high-tying four errors, as only one of the three runs he allowed was earned. Locke lost his second straight start, striking out six and walking two over five-plus innings.
"We didn't play well," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We didn't defend the ball very well, and we weren't able to capitalize on anything on offense."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Long AB, milestone hit: With a runner on first base in the bottom of the second inning against Locke, Jay Bruce dueled for a 13-pitch at-bat that included nine straight foul balls. Bruce won the battle with a lined single to right field for his 1,000th career hit, helping to fuel the key three-run rally.
"It was a fun at-bat, now that it's over and I got a hit," Bruce said. "It was a good one to get a hit on. I've faced Jeff a lot the last couple of years. You have an idea of what he's going to do to you, and you try to stay with your strengths, and I was able to stick it out long enough to get a pitch I could put the barrel on." More >
Error-filled inning: The Pirates didn't do Locke any favors as the Reds put up three runs in the second inning. Sean Rodriguez, making his first start of the season at shortstop, booted Brandon Phillips' chopper up the middle to lead off the inning. After Bruce and Eugenio Suarez singled and Adam Duvall walked to load the bases, right fielder Gregory Polanco caught Tucker Barnhart's sacrifice fly. Polanco's throw home sailed wide of the plate, and catcher Chris Stewart couldn't stop the ball from bouncing into the camera well, allowing another run to score.
"If we defend the ball better, who knows the outcome of the game?" Hurdle said. "I thought [Locke] pitched a very aggressive ballgame ... probably some of his better swing-and-miss stuff that we've seen in a while. It was a very good outing." More >
Jumbo-sized escape: Reliever Jumbo Diaz replaced DeSclafani after his shutout bid ended and promptly threw seven straight balls to begin the appearance. That included a four-pitch walk to Andrew McCutchen that put the tying run on first base. Recovering from a 3-0 count to Jung Ho Kang, Diaz's full-count offering was grounded to first base, where Joey Votto turned the inning-ending double play. Diaz covered the bag to retire Kang, then jumped in the air and pumped his fist with excitement.
"He didn't over-stress," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Seven straight balls, what are you thinking there? He pumps a strike in there to Kang and then comes back on a 3-1 pitch for a swing and a miss. A really nice play by Joey to start that 3-6-1 double play. It got everybody fired up. It was a big moment for Jumbo to pitch through that."
Double Decker:Jaff Decker led off the eighth inning with a pinch-hit double to right field and eventually came around to score the Pirates' first run on a single by Neil Walker. The two-base hit was Decker's first career double and stretched the Pirates' extra-base-hit streak to 68 games.
"There's no excuses. Those are plays that obviously have got to be made, and can and will be made." -- Rodriguez, on his two early errors at shortstop
"You can just kind of tell the kind of competitor, the work ethic he puts in and the willingness to make adjustments. He makes pitches when he needs to. He's just getting better every time out." -- Bruce, on DeSclafani during his first year with the Reds
After getting hit by a pitch with one out in the ninth inning, Rodriguez was picked off at first base by Aroldis Chapman and Votto. The out call was confirmed after a 56-second review, and Chapman went on to record his 29th save.
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: After a quick turnaround Monday, the Pirates will have more than 24 hours to rest before returning to Great American Ball Park on Tuesday night at 7:10 ET. Coming off his first loss since June 20, left-hander Francisco Liriano will try to start another winning streak as he takes the mound for the Bucs.
Reds:Raisel Iglesias, who will start Tuesday's game against the Pirates, has a streak of seven quality starts and a 2.32 ERA in those games. Cincinnati is also expected to activate center fielder Billy Hamilton from the disabled list and place him in the starting lineup.