Solo homers sink Bucs

Pirates' centerfielder Andrew McCutchen misses a single hit by Cincinnati's Billy Hamilton in the first inning. (AP)

CINCINNATI (AP) – Tucker Barnhart hit the last of Cincinnati’s three solo homers off Jonathon Niese, and Reds relievers threw three scoreless innings – a rarity for the major leagues’ worst bullpen – to close out a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday night.

Zack Cozart, Joey Votto and Barnhart connected off Jonathon Niese (3-2), with all three homers barely reaching the stands in left field. Barnhart’s tiebreaking homer in the seventh was upheld on review.

Barnhart’s first homer since last May 27 ended the seventh-longest active streak without a homer in the major leagues – 270 at-bats. It was the first time this season that Niese allowed three homers in a game.

J.C. Ramirez (1-2) and Blake Wood each pitched a hitless inning. Tony Cingrani gave up a leadoff double by Jung Ho Kang in the ninth but escaped with the help of a nice play by second baseman Brandon Phillips, who snagged Jordy Mercer’s grounder to prevent a run. It was Cingrani’s second career save and only the Reds’ third save of the season in nine chances.

Dan Straily allowed a pair of runs in his sixth and final inning, when the Pirates loaded the bases and scored on Francisco Cervelli’s sacrifice fly to the warning track in center and Kang’s groundout. That left it up to a bullpen that had allowed at least one run in 25 of Cincinnati’s last 26 games, including a major league-record 23 straight games through last Friday.


Niese hit Votto with a pitch in the first inning. Over the last four seasons, the Pirates have hit 39 Reds batters (three this season) and the Reds have hit 39 Pirates batters (six this season).


The Reds called up RHP Layne Somsen from Triple-A Louisville to help their overworked bullpen. OF Kyle Waldrop was sent back to Louisville after spending only one day in Cincinnati and failing to get an at-bat.


Pirates: Juan Nicasio (3-3) gave up four runs – only one earned – in 4 1/3 innings of a 6-2 loss to the Cubs on Wednesday.

Reds: Alfredo Simon (1-3) is coming off his best start of the season. He went 7 2/3 innings – the longest by a Reds starter this season – and gave up three runs in a 9-5 win over the Brewers on Thursday.