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Bats fall silent again as Pirates drop another game to Reds at PNC

| Wednesday, April 23, 2014, 10:45 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen backs away from an inside pitch during the sixth inning against the Reds Wednesday, April 23, 2014, at PNC Park.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said before Wednesday's game against the Cincinnati Reds that his team still is fighting and scratching to be more consistent offensively.

The offense continued to sputter, however, as the Pirates (9-13) lost their second game in a row, 5-2, and 10th in their past 13.

On Tuesday night, Johnny Cueto held the Pirates to one run on three hits. They scored two runs on six hits on a chilly Wednesday for the 16,705 at PNC Park — it was 50 degrees at first pitch — and one of those was walked in during a rough first inning for Reds right-hander Alfredo Simon (3-1). The other was a home run by Andrew McCutchen, who was 2 for 4. McCutchen has homered in each of the past three games.

“We had a lot of 1-0 counts that turned into outs,” Hurdle said. “We did some things that put us in good positions and gave us opportunities, but we have to continue to work for that consistency we're going to need.”

The Reds (10-11) were predictably aggressive on the base paths and stole four bases in the first five innings and advanced a couple more on a pair of throwing errors by catcher Chris Stewart, a late add to the lineup after Russell Martin was scratched.

The assertiveness on the base paths plus a tough inning for starter Charlie Morton (0-3) helped the Reds to scurry past the Pirates' 2-1 lead in the fifth.

Morton hit Devin Mesoraco on the hand, then walked Ramon Santiago to start the inning. Simon's sacrifice bunt moved both up, and Billy Hamilton hit an RBI single to left field to tie it, 2-2. When Hamilton broke for second, Stewart made his second error of the game and allowed the go-ahead run to score and Hamilton to advance to third.

Stewart made just two errors in 108 games (844 13 innings) in 2013.

Morton walked Joey Votto intentionally and Brandon Phillips unintentionally to load the bases, and the Reds made it 4-2 when first baseman Ike Davis dropped the return throw on an attempted double-play.

Morton said he lost his feel in the fifth and started pulling his fastball. Once it was gone, he said, it was hard to get back. And while his struggles might have given the Reds even more freedom to run, Morton said their penchant for swiping bases wasn't a factor in his inability to make the necessary corrections in time.

“You're cognizant of the fact that they're going to run, and you have to hold the ball well — you have to be quick to the plate — but I try not to let those things affect me too much,” Morton said. “I have to get the guy at home first.”

Morton went six innings, walked five, struck out four and allowed four runs (three earned) on four hits in his fifth start of the year. Simon, who was slated to pitch out of the bullpen but has been the team's fifth starter while Mat Latos recovers from elbow and knee injuries, walked in a run in a shaky first inning but gave up just four hits before exiting the game after 6 23 innings.

“We were able to scratch out our runs,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “The big thing was Alfredo Simon having a tough first inning, but then finding his command and finding a way to keep himself in there into the seventh inning.”

Karen Price is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach her at or via Twitter @KarenPrice_Trib.

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