Homers back Nicasio's gem to defeat Reds

Homers back Nicasio's gem to defeat Reds

PITTSBURGH -- Backed by home runs from Josh Harrison and Matt Joyce, right-hander Juan Nicasio delivered the Pirates' finest start of the season in a 4-1 win over the Reds on Friday night at PNC Park.

Nicasio fired seven scoreless innings, holding Cincinnati to three hits and a walk while striking out eight batters. Challenged earlier this month to work quickly and be more efficient, Nicasio did both in his fifth start of the season. He retired the final nine Reds he faced and needed only 97 pitches to deliver Pittsburgh's second seven-inning start of the year.

"He was in complete command from the first pitch until he walked off the mound," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

Nicasio's scoreless outing

Harrison homered off Reds right-hander Dan Straily in the fourth inning, and Joyce bounced a pinch-hit homer off the top of the left-field wall in the seventh against reliever J.J. Hoover. Straily pitched well, holding the Pirates to two runs on five hits over six innings.

"I feel good," Straily said. "I'm a little frustrated with tonight because some days you got to go out there and you just have to win the ballgame, 1-0. So from that standpoint, I'm frustrated with myself for giving up those two runs because it turned out to be that was the best chance we had to win, is throwing a shutout."

The Pirates have won five straight games and seven of their past eight. The Reds have lost five in a row and seven of their past eight.

Streak snapped: Harrison knocked a 3-1 fastball from Straily over the Clemente Wall and into the right-field seats in the fourth inning. Harrison's solo shot was his first home run of the season. In fact, it was his first since May 15, ending a 379-at-bat streak without a homer that had ranked as the fourth-longest in the Majors.

"I knew it had been a while," Harrison said. "But it wasn't anything like, 'I've got to hit a home run.' They'll come when they come."

Chance to win: Straily gave the Reds a quality start, pitching six innings and giving up two runs. He tossed 91 pitches and threw 56 strikes.

It still counts: Pinch-hitting for Nicasio in the seventh inning, Joyce lifted a 3-1 pitch from Hoover toward the left-field foul pole. The ball bounced off the outfield wall and into the stands, giving Joyce his second pinch-hit home run of the season and the third of his career. Joyce thought the ball might have veered foul, then he figured the left fielder would catch it. He didn't realize he'd hit a homer until third-base umpire Ted Barrett signaled it was gone.

Joyce's two-run shot

"[Third-base coach Rick] Sofield said that's just good, clean living," Joyce said. "I really didn't know what was going to happen."

Save situation: Tucker Barnhart doubled in the Reds' lone run in the ninth off Arquimedes Caminero, forcing the Pirates to call on closer Mark Melancon to finish the game. Melancon was up to the task, throwing two pitches and getting Scott Schebler to fly out to right field for the final out.

Melancon gets the save

Reds glad to have Bruce, Phillips back in lineup

"He's a strong man. He's built for endurance." -- Hurdle, on Nicasio's seven-inning start

The Pirates have hit at least one double in each of their first 23 games, surpassing the 1979 club for the second-longest streak to start a season since 1900. The 2008 Bucs doubled in each of their first 27 games. Pittsburgh leads the National League with 56 doubles.

Reds: Right-hander Alfredo Simon will make his fifth appearance -- and fourth start -- of the season for Cincinnati on Saturday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Simon is 4-5 with a 3.46 ERA against the Pirates. He surrendered eight runs, including two home runs, in only 2 2/3 innings in his last outing.

Pirates: Left-hander Francisco Liriano will start against the Reds on Saturday night at PNC Park. Liriano, 1-5 with a 3.96 ERA in 13 career starts against the Reds, appeared to find something in the final three innings of his most recent start Sunday against the D-backs, retiring nine of the last 10 batters he faced.

Watch every out-of-market regular season game live on MLB.TV.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.

George Von Benko is a contributor to MLB.com and covered the Reds on Friday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.