Romano pitches Reds over Bucs

NL Central: Cincinnati 2, Pittsburgh 1

CINCINNATI — Sal Romano had complete-game stuff. He settled for the best start of his rookie season.

Romano pitched a career-high eight shutout innings, Jesse Winker homered and the Cincinnati Reds beat the reeling Pittsburgh Pirates 2-1 on Saturday.

“It was fun playing behind Sal tonight,” Winker said. “It was cool to be a part of the game.”

Romano (5-6) allowed five hits, struck out six and walked none while improving to 3-1 over his last six starts. Elias Diaz’s one-out double in the fifth was the only runner to get past first base against the right-hander.

“I felt I got into a good rhythm,” Romano said. “I had fastball command and a curveball that I could throw for strikes. The difference is confidence. You have to believe that you’re better than the hitter.”

With top relievers Raisel Iglesias and Michael Lorenzen unavailable, manager Bryan Price thought about leaving Romano in to pitch the ninth. But he ended up taking him out.

“The decision to not let Sal finish was tough and not tough,” Price said. “I knew he was up third in the eighth. If he had to run the bases and knowing we didn’t have Iglesias and Lorenzen made it easy. I would have set myself up. I had (Cody) Reed and (Kevin) Schackelford. I wanted them to have a clean inning. It was tough because I really wanted Sal to finish. He had pitches left.”

Pittsburgh avoided a shutout when Andrew McCutchen homered against Schackelford in the ninth. Reed came in with a runner on first and retired Gregory Polanco on a grounder to second for his first career save.

The Reds won back-to-back games for the first time since sweeping Milwaukee in a three-game series that ended on Sept. 6.

The Pirates wasted a solid start by Ivan Nova in their fourth consecutive loss. McCutchen and Diaz each had two hits.

Nova had struggled since the All-Star break, but he went into the outing against the Reds with a fresh outlook.

“Today was a good day since I woke up,” he said. “When you go through tough times, you say you try not to think about it, but it’s in the back of your mind. I woke up today not thinking about it. I just decided to have fun today.”

Nova had allowed one hit and faced the minimum 18 batters before Winker led off the seventh with a drive to right for his sixth homer.

Zack Cozart followed with a double. Joey Votto then flied out and Eugenio Suarez walked before Nova (11-14) departed with right calf discomfort after talking on the mound with a trainer and manager Clint Hurdle.

Scooter Gennett, playing for the first time since Tuesday after being sidelined by a hand injury, greeted Dan Gunzler with an RBI single into center field for Cincinnati’s second run.

Nova allowed three hits, struck out six and walked one.