Bucs top Reds, inch closer to Cardinals

Bucs top Reds, inch closer to Cardinals

CINCINNATI -- Left-hander Francisco Liriano threw six scoreless innings and the Pirates used a third-inning balk and a blast to beat the Reds, 7-3, on Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park.

The Pirates' 82nd win of the season -- a figure that would have been celebrated wildly only a few years ago -- clinched their third straight winning season and brought them within 4 1/2 games of the Cardinals in the National League Central. They also maintained a two-game lead over the Cubs in the NL Wild Card standings.

"It's good. That was cool like two years ago for us, 'Hey, a winning season.' We've got bigger fish to fry," Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. "We're still moving to try to make the playoffs and keep going from there."

Liriano struck out 10, held the Reds to three hits and a walk, and chipped in at the plate with two hits of his own. Pittsburgh has won 12 of his last 13 starts.

"He's tough to hit," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

Meanwhile, the Pirates made short work of Reds rookie right-hander Raisel Iglesias, scoring five runs in the third inning. McCutchen drove in three with a homer to right field. With Jung Ho Kang on third base, Iglesias balked in the final run of the inning.

Iglesias, who entered the night with a streak of seven quality starts, gave up six hits and a walk while striking out four over three innings, and the Reds lost to the Pirates for only the fifth time in 15 meetings this season.

Frankie at the bat: Liriano put together the first multihit game of his career. He led off the third inning by ripping a double off Iglesias into the gap in right-center and immediately scored on a single by Gregory Polanco. Liriano's second hit was a comebacker in the sixth inning that deflected off Reds reliever Carlos Contreras.

"He's in a good place on offense," Hurdle said. More >

Liriano's scoreless start

Crushed by Cutch: McCutchen continued his career-long power surge against the Reds in the third inning, sending the first pitch he saw from Iglesias into the right-field seats for a three-run homer. It was his 21st home run of the season and the 24th of his career against Cincinnati, the most he's hit against any team.

"I know I can see the ball, let the ball get deep and let my hands work," McCutchen said. "I'm able to do that, and in a ballpark like this, it can go out."

McCutchen's three-run homer

No foreshadowing: Before allowing five runs in the third inning, Iglesias did not portend that a rough night was ahead. In the first inning, following a one-out double, he struck out back-to-back batters on 95-mph fastballs. One of them was McCutchen, who was caught looking at a called strike three. But after one more strikeout in the third inning, his three-game streak of double-digit strikeouts also came to an end.

"I feel like it was just a bad inning, like any other pitcher can have," Iglesias said through translator and catcher Brayan Pena about the top of the third. More >

Iglesias on effort in loss

Jung Ho Gone: Kang led off the eighth inning with a towering solo home run that landed in the second deck of the seats in left-center. Kang turned on a 77-mph curveball from right-hander Collin Balester and sent it out with an exit velocity of 110 mph, according to Statcast™, at an estimated distance of 472 feet.

Statcast: Kang hits long homer

This was Liriano's first career win against the Reds. Before Tuesday night, Cincinnati was the only team he had faced but never beaten. He has now recorded at least one win against 29 teams; he's never pitched against the Marlins.

Liriano and Gerrit Cole are the first Pirates teammates to record at least 175 strikeouts in the same season. Liriano leads the Bucs with 178, and Cole has punched out 175 this year.

Adam Duvall was hit by a Liriano pitch in the fourth inning and exited the game in a double switch in the sixth. He was diagnosed with a left knee contusion; X-rays were negative. The player who replaced him, Kristopher Negron, was hurt in the seventh inning, when he made a nice diving catch near the left-field foul line to rob Starling Marte of extra bases. The Reds announced that Negron suffered a partial dislocation of his left shoulder. He had just been recalled from Triple-A Louisville and was back in the big leagues for the first time since June. More >

Negron sacrifices body for catch

"That's a simple play with two strikes. It may seem like it's a meaningless game. For us it's not a meaningless game. We want to win those games and stay in those games. You see that in a World Series, and that's how a World Series would end right there. ... Even it's something they could have overturned on replay." -- Reds manager Bryan Price, on the game ending with Joey Votto's strikeout. It was not a reviewable play, but Reds replay video showed that Votto foul-tipped the ball into the dirt. Price and Votto argued, to no avail.

"It is tangible evidence of us being in a better place. We had 20 consecutive losing seasons ... and I felt the angst of the city and the fan base." -- Hurdle, on the team's 82nd win

Pirates: Left-hander J.A. Happ will take the mound at 7:10 ET on Wednesday night at Great American Ball Park to start the series finale. Happ has been the Pirates' hottest pitcher lately, posting a 1.57 ERA over six starts since joining Pittsburgh before the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Reds: Keyvius Sampson struggled in his last five starts, with a 9.00 ERA, and has had several short outings of late. He will try to help the Reds win the series over Pittsburgh in the 7:10 p.m. ET game.

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Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.