Neil Walker lost his flair for the dramatic; he smacked a first inning single off Johnny Cueto to run his hit streak to 18 games. It was a dribbler, but hey, when he tells his grandkids, it'll be a rocket. Either way, he was the only guy to reach base for either team in the opening frame.
Cueto retired the Bucs in order in the second; so far he's been throwing strikes without throwing it down the middle. Brian Burres has been sharp, too - one walk and three K's after two and keeping the ball down.
The Pirates were mowed down in the third, and so were the Reds. Walker drew a base on balls in the fourth. Orlando Cabrero started the Cincy half with a double to left, and Joey Votto lined an 0-2 inside heater into center for another two bagger, just avoiding a diving effort by Alex Presley, putting the Reds up 1-0.
Burres caught a break when Jonny Gomes flew out to center; McCutch gunned Votto trying to go to third after the catch. It made a difference when Ramon Hernandez lined a hanging curve into left for a knock.
The Pirates went down in order in the fifth. Cueto has been tough, working the ball up and down, in and out. Burres took out the Red 1-2-3 also.
Presley drew a two-out walk in the sixth to become Pittsburgh's third baserunner. Burres, meanwhile, just kept putting Reds away.
Pedro started the seventh with a rap up the middle. Bowker ran the count to 3-0, took a borderline strike and flew out to left. Dewey flew out to center.
Lastings Milledge dropped a flare into right to put runners on the corners, the first time Pittsburgh has had a runner in scoring position today. But Ronny Cedeno struck out swinging on a fastball that was closer to hitting him than the plate.
Gomes lined out to start the Red's half of the seventh. Hernandez dinked an infield single. Burres whiffed Cairo and got Stubbs to ground out to third. His line was seven innings, one run, four hits, a walk and six K's. He only allowed two reds to reach second. Now that's what we call a quality start.
That was it for Cueto, too. Logan Ondrushek took the hill for the eighth. Cueto worked seven scoreless frames, giving up three hits, two walks, and K'ing seven.
He got DY to pop out, and almost served the game-equalizer to McCutch, whose drive to left center fell just short of the wall at the 379' mark. Presley singled, and Dusty Baker brought on money-in-the-bank vet Arthur Rhodes to face Walker.
He fed the Pittsburgh Kid nothing by fastballs away and walked him to match up against Pedro. El Toro got sliders away, and fished for a couple, eventually grounding out to third to end the Bucco threat.
Chan Ho Park came on for the eighth. He gave up a walk, and left it to the Pirate bats to try to squeak a run across the plate in the ninth against Francisco Cordero.
Bowker drew a walk to start the ninth in a good at-bat with Cordero working him away with fastballs. Dewey singled to center after getting ahead 2-0 in the count. JR finally brought in Pedro Ciriaco to run, not for Bowker, but for Doumit. Silly us; we thought the lead runner was the key guy.
Thrilledge botched a bunt; the slow footed Bowker was forced at third. Garrett Jones pinch hit for Cedeno; at least JR did that on time, and singled to load the bases. Jose Tabata pinch hit and grounded a ball to Votto; he came home to get the force, and the Pirates were down to their last hitter.
And McCutch came through. He drilled a two-strike hanging slider into the left field corner, clearing the sacks. Presley flied to left; it was time to see if Joel Hanrahan, who has had a thoroughly forgettable series, could claim some redemption.
He retired Votto on a hard hit ball to Bowker at first, got Gomes swinging, and then hit Hernandez with a pitch. It's never easy. Miguel Cairo singled and Drew Stubbs walked to load the sacks. But Hanny blew a fastball past Chris Heisey for a called strike three, and the Bucs finally were rewarded for playing all nine innings.
James McDonald will take the mound against Dillon Gee to kick off the Mets series Monday night.
-- Neil Walker tied Rennie Stennett's rookie streak of consecutive games with a hit at 18. Stennett put his run together in 1971; the franchise record by a rookie is 27 games, set in 1899 by Jimmy Williams. Walker's 18-gamer is also the longest current MLB streak.
-- Chan Ho Park got today's win, tying him with Hideo Nomo for the most major-league victories by an Asian born player, with 123.
-- We wonder how much the improvement in Charlie Morton and Brian Burres in the bigs has to do with Ray Searage being in the dugout rather than Joe Kerrigan. Small sample, but just sayin'. Now if he only has time to get into Zach Duke's head...
-- Dewey has been catching much better since Chris Snyder came over. We don't think it's the competition that's causing the change; just the rest between squats seem to be doing the trick.