PITTSBURGH -- For the first time in 23 starts in the big leagues, Reds lefty Tony Cingrani finally gave up more than five hits. But the trivia of his being the only Major Leaguer to begin a career this way was less important than what happened after Cingrani allowed hit No. 6 in the sixth inning.
Cingrani kept Pittsburgh from scoring and the bullpen did the rest. The Reds earned a 2-1 victory over the Pirates to take three of four in the series after dropping Monday's game on a walk-off loss in the ninth inning. Cincinnati has won seven of its last nine games for an 11-11 record. The club hasn't been at .500 since the second game of the season.
"Three series [wins] in a row, back to .500," said left fielder Ryan Ludwick, who hit the two-run double in the sixth that put the Reds on top. "The pitching was outstanding today. Pitching wins championships. Those guys did an outstanding job. We keep getting pitching like that, we'll be back in this thing in a hurry."
Over the six innings with six hits, Cingrani gave up one run and two walks with seven strikeouts.
It was a nice performance by Cingrani to get through six innings, especially since he needed a whopping 32 pitches to get through the bottom of the first. Neil Walker drew a one-out walk after an 11-pitch duel and Andrew McCutchen reached on a single to third base.
With two outs in the first, Pedro Alvarez hit a slow roller to the right side that skipped off second baseman Brandon Phillips' glove and into the grass. It was ruled a RBI single by the official scorer.
"I was a little upset with that first inning," said Cingrani, who is 2-2 with a 2.86 ERA in five starts. "I threw the ball a little better than I did the last time. My mechanics are getting a little bit more repeatable, but I still have a little ways to go."
Pirates spot starter Brandon Cumpton, who was called up to replace the injured Wandy Rodriguez, had largely silenced the Reds' lineup for the first five scoreless innings. Heading into the sixth, Cumpton retired a stretch of 11 of 13.
Cumpton made two key mistakes to erase his 1-0 lead. He hit leadoff batter Joey Votto with a 0-2 pitch and with two outs, hit Todd Frazier in the shoulder with a 0-1 pitch. On the very next pitch, Ludwick laced a double through the gap in left-center field to score both baserunners and give Cincinnati the lead.
"We were starting to get a little irritated, because we had three hit batters in the game. A couple of our guys got squared up pretty good," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I don't think there was any intent to it, but the fact that his two-run double followed the third hit-by-pitch had a little bit more sweetness to it, for sure. It was a big, big hit."
"I let a couple of pitches get away from me in that sixth inning, and it kind of hurt me," Cumpton said. "I was being aggressive, going in -- and a couple of those [hit batters] were with two strikes, and I can't let that happen. But that's going to happen -- I pitch in a lot. Unfortunately, it came back to haunt me today."
When Cingrani returned for the bottom of the sixth, Gaby Sanchez notched Pittsburgh's fifth hit with a leadoff single on the ground into left field. Jose Tabata picked up the team's sixth hit with his one-out single grounded up the middle and represented the go-ahead run.
Cingrani was able to bear down to get Jordy Mercer to pop up behind the plate to Devin Mesoraco. The inning ended when Chris Stewart hit a routine fly ball to center field on Cingrani's 103rd pitch.
"He's really a gritty guy, because when he needs to make a pitch, he makes a pitch," Price said. "He had some really big challenges in that game."
Logan Ondrusek followed Cingrani with a one-hit, scoreless seventh inning. In the eighth, Sam LeCure struck out the side and got his first two lefty batters -- pinch-hitter Ike Davis and Alvarez -- looking at called strike threes. Jonathan Broxton picked up his fourth save with a perfect bottom of the ninth.
The road trip now moves to Atlanta for a three-game series vs. a first-place Braves team. A couple of weeks ago, when the Reds were 3-8, this might have seemed more daunting on the schedule. Now the club has seemed to right itself and is building some momentum for the first time this season.
"We're doing well. We just have to keep it rolling," Ondrusek said. "We started off a little rough, but we're coming around. We're getting guys healthy. Guys are starting to get back into form, and we'll just keep going."