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Reds deal reeling Pirates 5th consecutive defeat

| Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, 10:09 p.m.
Cincinnati Reds' Mike Leake (44) scores as Pirates starting pitcher Kevin Correia reaches for the ball after Correia threw a wild pitch in the second inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP)
The Cincinnati Reds' Scott Rolen hits a solo home run in the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Pirates, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in Cincinnati. Cincinnati won 5-3. (AP)
Pirates left fielder Alex Presley catches a fly ball hit by Cincinnati Reds' Wilson Valdez in front of center fielder Andrew McCutchen (22) during the second inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP)
The Cincinnati Reds' Brandon Phillips (4) is congratulated by third base coach Mark Berry (41) after Phillips hit a solo home run in the first inning of a baseball game against the Pirates, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP)
Cincinnati Reds starting pitcher Mike Leake throws against the Pirates in the first inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP)
Pirates starting pitcher Kevin Correia throws against the Cincinnati Reds in the second inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in Cincinnati. (AP)

CINCINNATI — The Pirates are free-falling out of the playoff race because they are losing games — and they're wasting opportunities.

They are wasting opportunities because they cannot do the fundamentals — run, hit, pitch.

At this point, the trail of excuses veers in all directions. Lack of experience. Lack of talent. Lack of luck. Lack of execution. Lack of concentration.

A little bit of all of those were on display Tuesday in the Pirates' 5-3 letdown against the Cincinnati Reds.

“Another tough one,” Pirates outfielder Jose Tabata said. “We just can't seem to get over that hump.”

The Pirates' five-game losing streak is their longest since they dropped five in a row April 10-14. Back then, there was plenty of time to recover. Now, the Pirates have no chance to win the NL Central and their hopes of claiming the second NL wild-card spot are fading.

Six weeks ago, the Pirates were 16 games over .500 and seemed poised to snap their streak of 19 losing seasons. To do that, they'll need to win 10 of their final 21 games.

“The way we've gotten here, it feels like we're in a bad position,” Pirates pitcher Kevin Correia said. “But we're still in a good spot, if we can get on a roll again. It can turn around in one game.”

In the first inning, Alex Presley ripped a line-drive homer to left field off right-hander Mike Leake (8-9).

The lead didn't last long. Reds leadoff batter Brandon Phillips blasted the first pitch from Correia (10-9) into the left field seats for his 17th homer.

Dioner Navarro walked to start the second. With one out, Leake slapped a single past third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who was playing in to guard against a bunt.

Phillips hit a ground ball double that was deflected by shortstop Clint Barmes. Navarro scored.

Correia's 1-1 curveball to Drew Stubbs bounced away in the dirt. Catcher Michael McKenry tried to flip the ball to Correia at the plate, but it caromed off Leake as he slid home and rolled toward the Reds' dugout. Phillips scored on the error.

Barmes doubled to start the fifth inning. Correia tried to bunt him to third but instead popped up to catcher Navarro.

Second baseman Brock Holt's flashy batting stats at Triple-A Indianapolis earned him a September call-up. But he remains a work in progress in the field, evidenced by slow pivots the past two nights that morphed wanna-be double plays into one-out fielder's choices.

The rookie has some lessons to learn on the basepaths, too. With Barmes still at second, Holt singled to shallow right field. Barmes wisely held up at third base, but Holt made a wide turn at first and was tagged out.

“It's an awareness play,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “It's a hard-hit ball; you should know they've got a Gold Glove outfielder (Jay Bruce) with a strong arm.”

What could've been a first-and-third, one-out scoring chance evaporated. Presley grounded out to end the inning.

Gaby Sanchez hit a pinch-hit, two-run homer in the seventh. Scott Rolen added a long solo homer in the eighth off Pirates rookie Kyle McPherson.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or 412-320-7811.

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