Bucs end April on a tear, win 6th straight

Bucs end April on a tear, win 6th straight

PITTSBURGH -- Behind Francisco Liriano's longest start of the season, the Pirates extended their winning streak to six games and finished April with a 5-1 victory over the Reds on Saturday night at PNC Park.

Liriano limited the Reds to one run over 6 2/3 innings, striking out six without a walk in his best start since Opening Day. The Bucs backed him by tagging Cincinnati right-hander Alfredo Simon for three runs in four innings, enough support with the way Liriano was pitching. John Jaso hit a leadoff home run, and Sean Rodriguez padded the Pirates' lead with a two-run homer in the eighth inning, his fourth homer of the season.

"John set a nice tone to get Frankie out in front, give Frankie a run to work with early," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

Liriano earns second win

The Pirates ended the month with a 15-9 record, tying a club record for wins in April. For all their Spring Training concerns about another slow start at the plate, the Bucs rank third in the Majors with 128 runs and still lead the league in average and on-base percentage.

Saturday night was typical of their grinding, keep-the-line-moving approach, as they forced out Simon after four innings and got into the Reds' bullpen.

Improvement, but another loss for Simon

"You still need to get the starter out," Hurdle said. "When they're behind, the second line of defense isn't as strong as the first line of defense."

The Reds have lost six straight and eight of their last nine.

"It [stinks] to lose any time you lose," Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips said. "To lose the way we've been losing is tough. We have been sloppy."

Phillips' barehanded toss

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Ambushed: Jaso is known as a patient hitter, but he wasted no time in his first at-bat against Simon. Jaso jumped on the first pitch he saw, a 94-mph fastball, and launched it into the seats in right-center for a leadoff home run. The 394-foot shot was Jaso's first home run as a Pirate and his fifth career leadoff homer.

Jaso has been tweaking his stance with hitting coach Jeff Branson to correct a minor mechanical flaw, and he saw the work pay off right away.

"I wasn't really expecting that or anything," Jaso said. "It was good to see a result. We all like that. It's a game of adjustments, and that's what I've been doing."

Simon tough: With his team trailing, 1-0, Simon got Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen to bounce into a two-out, bases-loaded forceout to end the fourth inning.

Simon escapes bases-loaded jam

Speed to burn: The Reds nicked Liriano for a run in the fifth inning, when speed merchant Billy Hamilton scored from first base on a double by Zack Cozart, just beating a relay throw by Jordy Mercer at home plate.

Rallying to respond: After the Reds tied the score in the fifth, the Pirates immediately answered and regained the lead with a two-run rally. David Freese led off with a base hit, Starling Marte was hit by a pitch and Francisco Cervelli drove in Freese with a single to center. That chased Simon from the game, and Josh Harrison tacked on a run by lifting a sacrifice fly to right field off reliever JC Ramirez.

"We didn't crack [Simon], but we pushed him," Hurdle said. "There was constant pressure."

Cervelli's go-ahead RBI single

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Pirates have won each of Liriano's last 13 starts at PNC Park, dating back to June 15.

The only other Pittsburgh teams to win 15 games in April? The 2013 Pirates went 15-12, and the 1992 Bucs were 15-5 after the first month of the season.

REPLAY REVIEW
With Freese on first base and nobody out in the fifth inning, Simon plunked Marte in the left hand with a first-pitch fastball. Marte was immediately tended to by a trainer and manager Clint Hurdle, but Freese remained on first as home-plate umpire Angel Hernandez called it a foul ball. After a review of one minute and 45 seconds, the call was overturned, and Marte took his base.

Marte gets hit by a pitch

WHAT'S NEXT
Reds: Right-hander Raisel Iglesias has been scratched from his scheduled start against the Pirates because of discomfort in his right shoulder. The Reds will call up Triple-A right-hander Tim Adleman, who was pulled from his start on Saturday. Adleman is 2-0 with a 4.24 ERA in three starts for Louisville. This will be his Major League debut.

Pirates: Coming off a strong start at hitter-friendly Coors Field, left-hander Jeff Locke will make his fifth start of the season at 1:35 p.m. ET on Sunday at PNC Park. Locke is 3-3 with a 3.14 ERA in 12 career meetings against the Reds, and he pitched effectively in his season debut in Cincinnati, allowing one run over six innings.

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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 Saturday.

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