By Will Graves
May 7, 2015
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher A.J. Burnett throws in the first inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Pittsburgh, Thursday, May 7, 2015. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Gregory Polanco ignored the stop sign from Pittsburgh Pirates third-base coach Rick Sofield and kept on churning. Considering the way the Pirates are struggling to score, the risk seemed worth the reward.
A poor throw from Cincinnati centerfielder Billy Hamilton allowed Polanco to sprint across home plate to give Pittsburgh an early lead Thursday. And for the first time in a week, one run served as the beginning of Pittsburgh's offense, not the end.
Andrew McCutchen broke out of a long slump with three hits in a 7-2 win over the Reds as the Pirates ended a five-game losing streak. The star centerfielder - who blamed himself for Pittsburgh's slow start - doubled, singled twice and provided an insurance run with an RBI in the eighth to raise his batting average from .188 to .210.
The Pirates pounded out 11 hits and had 18 baserunners in all. Heady territory for a team that managed all of five runs during its recent skid.
''It's what we're capable of doing on a daily basis,'' said McCutchen, whose three-hit game was his first since Sept. 8, 2014. ''We have the team capable to do it. We're just going to keep going out there. We're not right where we need to be yet and that's the great thing.''
Starling Marte and Chris Stewart each drove in two runs for Pittsburgh while Neil Walker added two hits and an RBI.
A.J. Burnett (1-1) held the Reds in check for seven effective innings, giving up two runs on seven hits. His four strikeouts gave him 2,401 for his career, tying him with Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley for 40th all-time.
Burnett began the night with the lowest ERA in the National League (1.45) but nothing to show for it in the win column thanks to an offense that generated five runs total in his first five starts. He didn't let the outburst go to waste.
''We came out swinging the bats,'' Burnett said. ''It shows the determination of these guys not to quit, not to give up. You've got some pros going through some stuff and they're not fazed by it and that's more important than anything.''
Todd Frazier went 2 for 3 with his National League-leading 10th home run for Cincinnati and Marlon Byrd chipped in two hits. Anthony DeSclafani (2-3) labored through five innings, giving up three runs as the Reds fell to the Pirates for the first time in six meetings this season.
''I put myself in a lot of jams,'' DeSclafani said. ''Definitely wasn't happy with this outing. I kind of felt like I was fighting myself mechanically and I wasn't getting ahead of hitters at all.''
DeSclafani gave up three runs in five innings, walking four and striking out one. He has nine walks combined in his last two starts as his ERA has ticked up from 1.04 to 2.50.
''I thought he did do a great job of battling,'' Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said. ''It can be so frustrating when you're throwing the ball and you're not sure where it's gonna end up in the zone.''
There were no issues for Burnett, who wriggled free of a two-on, one-out jam in the seventh to pick up his first win with the Pirates since Sept. 27, 2013.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle stressed his team would not panic even as its batting average dipped. He credited that patience for a rare productive outing.
''We just had better at-bats,'' Hurdle said. ''We managed the batter's box better at the end of the day. Can't say more than that.''
Reds: SS Zack Cozart is nearing his return from hand and wrist injuries that forced him to miss a third straight game. Cozart, who was hurt while fielding a grounder on Sunday in Atlanta, joined his teammates for batting practice before the series finale with the Pirates. Manager Bryan Price said Cozart will be re-evaluated on Friday.
Pirates: RHP Charlie Morton will start for Double-A Altoona on Friday as he continues his comeback from hip surgery. The plan is for Morton to throw 90-plus pitches.
Reds: Cincinnati visits the Chicago White Sox for the first time since 2001 on Friday. Jason Marquis (3-1, 5.22 ERA) is 14-13 all-time against the American League.
Pirates: Pittsburgh faces St. Louis for the second straight weekend when the Cardinals come to town on Friday. St. Louis swept a three-game set - all coming on walk-off hits - from the Pirates last weekend.