Pirates fall six games back

PITTSBURGH – Joey Votto celebrated his 33rd birthday with four hits, including a home run, and the Cincinnati Reds beat the collapsing Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 on Saturday night.

Votto led off the ninth inning with his 23rd homer, a drive to right off Juan Nicasio that gave the Reds a two-run cushion. The 2010 NL MVP is hitting .427 in 51 games since the All-Star break and could become the first major leaguer to hit .400 in the second half since Ichiro Suzuki had a .429 average in 2004 with the Seattle Mariners.

The Pirates’ flickering hopes of a fourth consecutive postseason berth took another hit as they dropped six games behind St. Louis for the second NL wild card with their 10th loss in 12 games.

Francisco Cervelli hit a two-out RBI single in the ninth for Pittsburgh, but Tony Cingrani held on for his 17th save. With runners on first and second, Jordy Mercer bounced into a fielder’s choice for the final out.

Brandon Phillips had three of Cincinnati’s 15 hits, helping the Reds rally from an early 4-0 deficit for their second straight win following nine losses in 11 games. Tucker Barnhart drove in three runs.

Phillips is hitting .365 (19 for 52) with four homers and 10 RBIs in 14 games against the Pirates this season.

The Reds jumped in front with three runs in the fifth against rookie reliever Trevor Williams (1-1). Scott Schebler had a bases-loaded walk before Barnhart made it 7-4 with a two-run double.

Jung Ho Kang’s two-run homer off rookie starter Robert Stephenson gave the Pirates a 4-0 lead in the third inning. Kang finished with two hits and three RBIs.

Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison left in the sixth inning after injuring his right groin while legging out a two-run double that got the Pirates within one at 7-6. He is 17 for 42 (.405) with six doubles during a 10-game hit streak.

Josh Smith (3-1) got the win despite allowing two runs in 2 1/3 innings.

Stephenson threw 43 pitches during a two-run first inning and made it through just three innings, getting tagged for four runs and five hits.

Acquired in an Aug. 1 trade with Toronto and assigned to Triple-A Indianapolis, Drew Hutchison gave up four runs and eight hits in four innings in his Pirates debut.


Pirates: LF Starling Marte (back spasms) sat out for a fifth straight game and there is no timetable for his return.


Pirates right-hander Chad Kuhl will return to the rotation Thursday night and start at Philadelphia. The rookie was originally supposed to start Saturday but the Pirates decided to give him a break after working 134 1/3 innings between Pittsburgh and Indianapolis this season.


Reds: LHP Brandon Finnegan (8-10, 4.17 ERA) will start Sunday in the finale of the four-game series. He is winless in his last three starts despite a 3.00 ERA in that span.

Pirates: RHP Ryan Vogelsong (3-4, 4.07 ERA) has allowed a combined 10 runs in nine innings in his last two starts while going 0-1.