Pirates' bats buck trend vs. Cincinnati

Pirates' bats buck trend vs. Cincinnati

PITTSBURGH -- The Reds have made a habit of dominating the Pirates this season, but that mastery didn't continue Thursday night. With right-hander Chad Kuhl delivering his best start this season, the Pirates jumped out to an early lead and cruised to a 6-0 win at PNC Park to avoid another series sweep by the Reds.

"Every game is important. Our mentality is to make sure that every time we get on that field we give our best and work hard," Pirates left fielder Starling Marte said. "That's our goal, and that's what we are trying to get at. So it felt great to get that win tonight."

That mentality hasn't translated into wins against the Reds. The Pirates entered Thursday having lost eight of nine to Cincinnati this season. But all the problems that plagued them in previous contests against the division rival were absent Thursday. They strung together hits, scoring two in the first inning, two in the third and two in the seventh. Marte and David Freese each registered three hits. Adam Frazier and Josh Bell added two apiece.

Freese's second RBI knock

"Nobody tried to really get outside themselves. I thought we took what the pitchers gave us," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It was good hitting."

Reds starter Sal Romano gave up four earned runs and eight hits over six innings with no walks and three strikeouts. All of his runs and seven hits came over the first three innings, and Romano retired nine of 10 over his final three scoreless innings. Directed to use his changeup more after he threw just one in his previous start, Romano threw 13 changeups among his 102 pitches and got a strikeout with it. He needs to incorporate the pitch to get hitters off of his mid- to high-90s fastball.

"My changeup was very, very good today. That was a big step forward for me," Romano said. "It was a successful pitch for me, probably my second-best pitch today. But overall, obviously we lost, and you don't want that."

The Reds' lineup, meanwhile, couldn't get anything going against Kuhl. After posting a 3.28 ERA in July, Kuhl limited the Reds to four hits in seven scoreless innings, helping to snap Cincinnati's three-game winning streak.

"It's not necessarily that we beat the Reds tonight. We need to get back on track," Pirates catcher Chris Stewart said. "Our offense did well. Our pitching did well. We played defense. It's a matter of consistently doing that each and every night now."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Early error: Adam Duvall doesn't make too many mistakes in left field; he ranks second in the National League, behind Billy Hamilton, in outfield assists, with eight. But Duvall committed a critical error in the first when he tried to throw Marte out at third on Frazier's single. His throw sailed past third baseman Eugenio Suarez and ricocheted off the wall behind home plate toward the first-base dugout, allowing Marte to score and Frazier to advance to third. Frazier later scored on Andrew McCutchen's groundout to third base.

Marte scores on throwing error

Keeping Kuhl: Kuhl only allowed six baserunners, and only two of them reached second, but he encountered some trouble in the fourth. He issued a walk to Joey Votto to begin the frame and gave up a single to Duvall. But with two runners on and no outs, Kuhl stayed calm, striking out Scooter Gennett on three pitches, getting Suarez to fly out to left field and striking out Jose Peraza to escape with no damage. More >

"He was able to shut it down right there. That's a sign of good pitching," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "They did exactly what they had to do to get a win tonight, which was getting a really good quality start and putting some runs on the board early."

HAMILTON EJECTED
Hamilton was ejected for the first time in his big league career after arguing with home-plate umpire Todd Tichenor in the fifth inning. Hamilton saw three pitches from Kuhl, all down and away, and all three were called strikes. Hamilton said something to Tichenor as he walked toward the dugout and was ejected. More >

Hamilton ejected after strikeout

QUOTABLE
"It started with Marte tonight. He got good swing after good swing off [in his first at-bat], until the last ball hit off the end of the bat in the first. He saw the ball well, good timing. Barrel showed up. He's a difference-maker for us when he gets on in the top of the lineup." -- Hurdle, on Marte's 3-for-5 performance

"We preach that if you're not throwing your changeup, you're making yourself a reliever. We spent some time reminding Sal of that. He comes in and wants to throw fastball-breaking ball. The pitch, at times, he feels lacks a polish that would allow him to throw it against big league hitters. But it will define whether he's a starter or a reliever, I really believe that. If we don't make him throw it, then he'll end up being a relief pitcher." -- Price, on Romano incorporating his changeup as a solid third pitch

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Pinch-hitting to lead off the seventh inning, John Jaso slapped a single to right field. That hit snapped Jaso's 0-for-34 skid at the plate. It was Jaso's first hit since July 5. During that time, his average dropped from .254 to .212.

Jaso's first hit since July 5

WHAT'S NEXT
Reds: Following 10 games on the road, the Reds return to Great American Ball Park to open a three-game series vs. the Cardinals at 6:40 p.m. ET Friday. Asher Wojciechowski, who had a 0.71 ERA in six relief appearances since his return to the big leagues July 2, will get the start after he replaced Tim Adleman in the rotation.

PIrates: Right-hander Ivan Nova will get the call as the Pirates begin a three-game series with the Padres on Friday at 7:05 p.m. ET at PNC Park. Nova was hit hard Saturday in San Diego, allowing four runs on eight hits in five innings. Despite his remarkable control, Nova posted a 6.28 ERA in five July starts. He's been at his best at PNC Park, with a 2.83 ERA this season.

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

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Jonathan Toye is a reporter for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh.

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