"Our overall execution cost us a little bit," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We weren't able to complete the deal."
In the second inning, Francisco Cervelli singled and took third on a base hit by Gregory Polanco, putting runners on the corners with no outs. But Josh Harrison went down swinging on three straight sliders, then Jordy Mercer hit a line drive directly at Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez.
Suarez threw to first baseman Joey Votto, catching Polanco too far off the bag for the inning-ending double play. Mercer bounced into another inning-ending double play in the third after the Bucs loaded the bases with one out.
Mercer had another chance to tie it up in the sixth after Harrison put the Pirates on the board with an RBI single. The shortstop came to the plate with two outs and runners on second and third. The Reds turned to reliever Blake Wood, a former Pittsburgh farmhand, who got Mercer to pop out in foul territory.
The Pirates' most memorable missed opportunity came in the seventh. Pinch-hitter Matt Joyce drew a leadoff walk and took third on John Jaso's double to left, once again putting two men in scoring position with no outs and the heart of the order coming to the plate against a vulnerable Reds bullpen.
Andrew McCutchen hit a soft grounder off the end of his bat, and Votto scooped it up. Votto looked Joyce back to third base and stepped on first to force out McCutchen.
Joyce held his ground at third base, but Jaso was caught too far off second. Votto fired the ball to Reds shortstop Ivan De Jesus Jr., who tagged Jaso as he dived toward the bag. Jaso was ruled out, and the call stood after a two-minute, 59-second instant replay review.
"We need to be in tandem," Hurdle said. "[If the] man at third doesn't go, when you're the runner at second, you've got to hold your ground and get back."
Unlike Friday night, when Starling Marte's eighth-inning grand slam redeemed all their missed opportunities, there was no late magic for the Pirates on Saturday afternoon.
Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.