Reds
(71-81)
vs.
Pirates
(56-94)

The Cincinnati Reds have their work cut out for them if they're going to avoid a ninth consecutive losing season, but they're not going down without a fight - particularly as long as the Pittsburgh Pirates are still on the schedule.

The Reds look to win a seventh straight game against the Pirates for the first time in more than 23 years when the teams continue a three-game series Wednesday night at PNC Park.

Cincinnati (70-81) can't afford another loss if it's going to steer clear of yet another losing record, but it's playing some of its best baseball with the end of September approaching.

The Reds have won six of their past eight largely thanks to a pitching staff that's posted a 2.50 ERA. They've also recorded 27 hits in their last two games, and clubbed seven doubles Tuesday in a 10-4 win that guaranteed Pittsburgh would finish in the NL Central basement for the third straight year.

"We've got (11) games left in the season, we just want to do our best to finish off strong,'' said first baseman Joey Votto , who's hitting .522 in his last seven games. "... I think if we finish off strong with a reasonably close record to .500 that it will give us confidence going into next year.''

Beating the Pirates (56-93) - who have lost 21 of 24, their worst stretch since they lost 24 of 28 from July 13-Aug. 15, 1985 - hasn't been much of a challenge recently. Cincinnati has outscored Pittsburgh 40-19 in winning six in a row in the series, and a victory Wednesday would give the franchise its longest streak of success against the Pirates since taking nine in a row May 18-Sept. 2, 1986.

Part of the Reds' dominance of Pittsburgh can be attributed to the resurgent Homer Bailey (5-5, 5.15 ERA), who's 3-1 with a 1.83 ERA in his last six starts.

Two of the wins came against the Pirates, including the game that kicked off his current hot streak. Bailey allowed a run and four hits over seven innings Aug. 23 in a 4-1 win at PNC Park.

He was even better the last time he took the hill. The right-hander gave up three hits in seven shutout innings Friday against Florida - striking out eight - before a ninth-inning bullpen meltdown cost him a decision in Cincinnati's 4-3 loss.

"I took it one pitch at a time," Bailey told the Reds' official Web site. "If you back off, that's when they hit a three-run home run or a blooper."

Pittsburgh's offense, meanwhile, has surpassed 10 hits in its past two games, but has left with two losses thanks to a pitching staff that's given up double-digit runs in each contest. The Pirates haven't had at least 10 hits for three straight games since June 6-8.

"Nobody likes to lose," manager John Russell said. "Nobody here - the staff or the players - nobody enjoys this one bit."

Kevin Hart (4-7, 4.71) will try to give Pittsburgh a better starting effort Wednesday, and he's coming off his best performance since coming over from the Chicago Cubs in a July 30 trade. Hart gave up two runs in six innings last Wednesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers - striking out five - but lost his fifth consecutive start, 3-1.

Hart is 1-1 with a 3.27 ERA in two starts this season against Cincinnati - one for the Cubs and one for Pittsburgh.

BUY Reds vs. Pirates Tickets
Batting
Runs Avg. OBP SLG
PIT 636 0.252 0.318 0.387
CIN 673 0.247 0.318 0.394
Pitching & Defense
Runs ERA WHIP QS
PIT 768 4.59 1.448 84
CIN 723 4.18 1.369 79