CINCINNATI -- The Pirates have entered a nose-dive in September, and encountering the Reds -- who have owned Pittsburgh in 2017 -- won't help. Cincinnati supported pitcher Homer Bailey with four home runs en route to a 4-2 victory on Friday at Great American Ball Park. The Reds have won 11 of 17 games in the season series vs. Pittsburgh.
Bailey gave the Reds 5 2/3 innings, allowing one earned run and five hits with two walks and seven strikeouts to notch his first victory since Aug. 11.
"I thought we had really good command of the fastball today, I threw some really good splits," Bailey said. "As me and Tucker [Barnhart] have gotten more games under our belt, he's done such a great job, and to know you can go below the zone and it's going to stay in front of him is always good."
Bailey's Pirates counterpart, Chad Kuhl, was roughed up for all four homers -- solo shots all -- over his 4 2/3 innings among eight hits, three walks and six strikeouts.
One of Kuhl's greatest strengths this season has been his ability to keep the ball in the park. Entering Friday's game, Stephen Strasburg was the only qualified National League starter to permit fewer homers per nine innings than Kuhl. He had only allowed four homers over his previous 13 starts, but the Reds matched that total in one night.
"That's just baseball in general. It's cyclical like that," Kuhl said. "It's just one of those games. They do a good job hitting the ball out of the ballpark, especially at their place. They did a good job. It was a good thing they were solo homers. … Tough to swallow, but I'll take a solo home run over the big ones."
Zack Cozart's first of two homers vs. Kuhl came in the third inning and snapped a 1-1 tie. In the fifth inning, Cozart and Scott Schebler added homers for a three-run lead.
The Pirates had a couple of opportunities with the bases loaded and could not capitalize. In the third inning, they had the bases loaded and one out and scratched across one run on Jordan Luplow's sacrifice fly. Adam Frazier, batting .336 since the All-Star break, lined a triple down the left-field line in the ninth to plate Max Moroff with the other Pittsburgh tally.
The Pirates have lost eight of their last nine games and scored a total of 12 runs in those eight losses. They forced the Reds to throw 170 pitches but managed only seven hits and four walks while striking out 12 times.
"It's hard to only score two runs seeing 170 pitches. The effort's there," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We're hunting pitches. We're doing things. We're not getting that big hit. We're not finishing innings when we get some men on. That's been the hard part."
At 68-80, the Pirates are a season-worst 12 games under .500. They haven't been at least a dozen games below .500 since finishing the 2011 season with a 72-90 record. If the Reds can continue their trend of winning against Pittsburgh, they could close the gap for fourth place in the National League Central. Last-place Cincinnati is four games back at 64-84.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED On-base machine: With two outs in the bottom of the first inning, Joey Votto attacked Kuhl's first pitch and slugged a homer to right field. It was Votto's 35th homer of the season and the 11th time he's hit one on the first pitch, tying him for the Major League lead with Joey Gallo of the Rangers. Votto also leads the Majors by reaching base 293 times this season. The Rockies' Charlie Blackmon entered the night in second with 263. Votto, who also hit a double and was intentionally walked on Friday, previously led the Majors in times reaching base in 2013 (316) and '15 (319).
"He was ready to hit it. Tip your cap. He's a really good hitter," Kuhl said. "Usually they're long at-bats, a patient hitter, up there to work counts and stuff like that. He was ready to go from pitch one."
Pirates foiled in eighth: Reds reliever Michael Lorenzen picked up Bailey by escaping his bases-loaded jam in the sixth. In the eighth, Raisel Iglesias picked up Lorenzen after a leadoff walk and one-out single brought the tying run to the plate. David Freese fouled off three two-strike pitches and drew two balls before striking out. Gregory Polanco followed by striking out on a nasty slider in the dirt to end the threat. Iglesias went on to notch his 27th save in 28 tries and his Major League-leading 11th save with at least five outs.
"They really challenged him and gave him good at-bats," Reds manager Bryan Price said of Iglesias, who threw 42 pitches. "They made him throw pitches, and fouled off a lot of pitches. But he was able to knock it down for us."
"It's definitely starting to get there. I think the biggest thing for this year is not having that solid two and a half months before the season. We had surgery in February and then we're rushing to get back into playing shape. You just can't discredit those offseason workouts and stuff. That's part of where I see that I'm missing. I'll get to about 90 pitches and usually, I have another gear. While I'm not tired out there, I can definitely tell that I'm still missing a little bit. I think a good offseason is going to cure that." -- Bailey, on pitching following his third elbow surgery since 2014.
"It still counts against you. It's just one of those things. It's a homer whether it goes over by a foot or 100 feet. Neither of them are fun."-- Kuhl, on allowing two relatively short home runs: Schebler's 367-foot shot and Cozart's 358-foot second blast
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Freese went 2-for-4 with a double. His sixth-inning line drive to right-center field was the 900th hit of his career.
Reds left fielder Adam Duvall stranded two runners on base when he flied out to end the third inning. Duvall leads the Majors with 292 runners left on base this season. Albert Pujols of the Angels is second in the category, though he entered Friday having stranded 40 fewer runners than Duvall. The all-time Reds record is 302 by Tony Perez in 1974, and the all-time MLB record is George Bell with 331 for the White Sox in '92.
WHAT'S NEXT Pirates: Right-hander Ivan Nova will start Saturday for the Pirates as they continue their three-game series against the Reds at Great American Ball Park. Nova's last start came on 10 days' rest, but his second-half struggles continued as he allowed five runs on five hits over five innings. Nova has a 6.62 ERA in 10 starts since the All-Star break. First pitch Saturday is scheduled for 4:10 p.m. ET.
Reds: Cincinnati will counter the Pirates with rookie Sal Romano, who has enjoyed a nice stretch of starts lately. Romano is 2-1 with a 2.64 ERA in five starts since Aug. 18. He is 0-2 with a 3.86 ERA in his two starts vs. Pittsburgh. On Sept. 3, he allowed two runs (one earned) over 5 2/3 innings before exiting with a cut index finger during a 3-1 loss at PNC Park.