There wasn't much for the Pittsburgh Pirates to celebrate in their 1,000th game at PNC Park, but they still finished their best month in 21 seasons.
After winning six straight and 10 of 11 at home, Pittsburgh (34-21) fell 6-0 on Friday for its fifth loss in 21 games overall.
"Luckily Brandon saved us all with a half-swing base hit," second baseman Neil Walker said. "Maybe we should all have half-swinged tonight. Nothing else really worked for us."
Still, the Pirates finished May with a 19-9 mark for their best month since going 21-8 in September 1992, the last year they made the postseason.
The Pirates are tied with the Reds (34-21) for second in the NL Central behind St. Louis, giving the division three teams with winning percentages of .600 or better through May 31. It's the first time that's happened since Boston, New York and Baltimore were over .600 heading into June in 1986.
Pittsburgh will try to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time since May 8-9 with Liriano (3-1, 2.35 ERA) looking to rebound from his worst outing of the season.
The left-hander surrendered four runs and eight hits in five innings of Monday's 6-5 loss at Detroit. Liriano had a 1.00 ERA in his first three starts.
"I know that I've got to hit my spots and make good pitches if I don't want to get beaten up," he said.
Liriano has never faced the Reds or second baseman Brandon Phillips , who's batting .448 (13 for 29) with four homers and nine RBIs in a seven-game hitting streak against Pittsburgh.
Phillips went 2 for 4 with a solo homer and Jay Bruce also homered Friday to help Cincinnati avoid a third consecutive loss and win for the first time in four tries at Pittsburgh this season.
Mike Leake (4-2, 3.02) will try to build on Johnny Cueto 's brilliant eight-inning performance when he gets the ball Saturday. He's 2-0 with a 0.43 ERA in his last three outings after striking out a season high-tying seven with no walks while not receiving a decision in Monday's 4-2 win over Cleveland.
"He's been lights out lately," shortstop Zack Cozart told the Reds' official website of the right-hander, who allowed one earned run in 7 1-3 innings. "He's pounding the zone, and I think when you do that, you keep your defense in the game and you get ahead of guys. And when you get ahead of guys, it's proven that you're successful, and I think that's what he's doing."
This will be Leake's second start against the Pirates in 2013. He didn't factor in the decision after allowing season highs of five runs and 10 hits in a 6-5 loss at Pittsburgh on April 12.
Walker had two hits off Leake that night to improve to 9 for 23 (.391) in their matchups.
Left fielder Alex Presley , 6 for 15 with two homers, a triple and a double against Leake, could get the start after getting called up from Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday.
Pittsburgh is 488-512 at PNC since it opened with an 8-2 loss to the Reds on April 9, 2001.
|May 21, 2013||Sean Marshall||15-Day DL||Sprained left shoulder|
|April 27, 2013||Chris Heisey||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|April 27, 2013||Chris Heisey||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained hamstring|
|April 24, 2013||Manny Parra||15-Day DL||Strained left pectoral muscle|
|April 24, 2013||Manny Parra||15-Day DL||Strained left pectoral muscle|
|April 22, 2013||Jonathan Broxton||Day-to-Day||Bruised right hand|
|May 28, 2013||Jose Contreras||15-Day DL||Lower back inflammation|
|May 25, 2013||Jose Tabata||15-Day DL||Strained left oblique - out 3-4 weeks|
|May 19, 2013||Andrew McCutchen||Day-to-Day||Sore right knee|
|May 15, 2013||John McDonald||15-Day DL||Lower back discomfort|
|May 01, 2013||James McDonald||15-Day DL||Right shoulder discomfort|
|April 27, 2013||Travis Snider||Day-to-Day||Left side discomfort|
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- It seems like Mike Leake 's spot in the Cincinnati Reds ' starting rotation has been in jeopardy since the first day of spring training.
With the Reds planning to convert closer Aroldis Chapman to a starter in spring training, Leake appeared headed to a long relief role until Cincinnati reversed course with Chapman. When ace Johnny Cueto went on the disabled list in mid-April, there was speculation that Leake could be the odd starter out upon Cueto's return.
However, Leake is still in the rotation and continued his recent run of strong pitching by working six scoreless innings Saturday night as the Reds beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 2-0.
Leake (5-2) scattered seven hits as the Pirates stranded seven runners during his six innings. He had five strikeouts and one walk. In his last four starts, Leake has gone 3-0 with a 0.27 ERA, allowing only one run in 33 innings.
"I didn't want to lose my spot in the rotation and it definitely gave me a little motivation," Leake said. "When I start hearing I'm going to lose my spot, part of me says don't worry about it and part of me says get a little attitude going.
"And the third part is to worry about it, so you try to forget about that third part."
The Reds shut out Pittsburgh for the second straight night as the Pirates lost back-to-back games for the first time since May 8-9. On Friday, Cueto pitched eight innings of a one-hitter.
"Most people respond when you show a a little faith in them and Leakie has done that," Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said. "He pays attention. He learns. He's helping us and he's helping himself."
Francisco Liriano (3-2) struck out 11 in six innings and allowed only one run but lost his second straight decision.
"Wow. He was really good," Pittsburgh coach Clint Hurdle said. "He was done physically after six but it was a really good six innings."
Liriano also struck out seven batters in a row between the first and third innings, tying the club record set by Erik Bedard on May 3, 2012 at St. Louis.
"You could tell right from the start he was good and I was going to have to be pretty good, too, if we were going to have a chance to win," Leake said.
Chapman pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out Alex Presley swinging on runners on first and second to end it for 14th save in 16 opportunities.
Cincinnati second baseman Brandon Phillips , who entered the day with a National League-leading 44 RBIs, had two hits but left the game in the eighth inning with a bruised left forearm after being hit by a pitch from Tony Watson .
X-rays were negative but Baker said Phillips would definitely miss Sunday's game and perhaps a few more.
"The first thing I thought of was Curtis Granderson ," Phillips said, referring to the New York Yankees ' left fielder suffering a broken forearm in February during his first plate appearance of the exhibition season. "I thought it was broken, for sure. I'm still having a hard time closing my hand but I'm very thankful it wasn't broken and that I won't be out for very long."
Todd Frazier also had two the Reds' 10 hits.
Presley had three hits for the Pirates a day after being recalled from Triple-A Indianapolis. Garrett Jones added two hits.
Pittsburgh outhit Cincinnati, 10-8, but left 10 runners on base and went 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position.
"We couldn't get (hits) at the right time," Hurdle said. "Opportunities were out there but we couldn't get anything going."
Phillips' infield single drove in Zack Cozart from second base with the game's first run with two outs in the fourth inning. Replays showed that Liriano beat Phillips to the bag while catching the throw from Jones, the first baseman, but first umpire Bob Davidson made a safe call.
Joey Votto added an RBI single for the Reds in the eighth.
NOTES: As part of Negro League heritage weekend at PNC Park, the Pirates wore replica Homestead Grays' uniforms and the Reds wore Cincinnati Tigers' throwbacks. ... Pittsburgh LF Starling Marte , who hit .243 in May after batting .327 in April, was not in the starting lineup and was replaced by OF Alex Presley . ... Rookie OF Derrick Robinson started for Cincinnati in left field for a third consecutive game, again taking the place of OF Xavier Paul . ... Liriano had double digit strikeouts for the 12th time in his eight-year career. ... The three-game series ends Sunday with Reds RHP Mat Latos (5-0, 3.01) facing RHP Jeanmar Gomez (2-0, 2.30).