Bucs drop 8th straight in finale at Cincinnati
Tonight: St. Louis at Pittsburgh, 7:05 p.m.
Pitching matchup: Pirates LHP Steven Brault (0-3) vs. Cards RHP Dakota Hudson (3-2)
TV: AT&T SportsNet
The Associated Press
CINCINNATI — Cincinnati’s Luis Castillo pitched a masterful seven innings, Shogo Akiyama drove in the game’s only run, and the Reds moved into a virtual tie for second place in the National League Central Division with a 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night.
Castillo (3-5), coming off his first career complete game in a 3-1 win at St. Louis on Friday, retired nine of the last 10 batters he faced and gave up only three hits and a walk with 10 strikeouts, helping the Reds extend their winning streak to a season-high five games.
“He backed up his last start,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He couldn’t get much better than that, but to be able to back that up was huge for us,”
Castillo’s combination of a fastball that can reach 98 mph and a nearly unhittable changeup was unbeatable, Pirates manager Derek Shelton said.
“I thought his changeup was that good,” Shelton said. “He was really good. Not only did his changeup have down action, but his fastball is usually side-to-side, but tonight it was straight down. He didn’t make many mistakes, and the ones he made, we hit right into the ground.”
The Reds trail the Giants for the final postseason berth. San Francisco was scheduled to play the Mariners late Wednesday in a game postponed from Tuesday and moved from Seattle to San Francisco because of poor air quality.
St. Louis split a doubleheader at Milwaukee, winning the opener 4-2 and dropping the nightcap 6-0, leaving the Cardinals and Reds tied for second, five games behind the Cubs. The top two teams in each division and the two teams in the league with the next-best records qualify for the playoffs.
The Reds were higher than third place for the first time since mid-August.
“The clubhouse is very excited,” Castillo said through an interpreter. “We are very, very happy and want to continue this momentum.”
The Pirates set a season low for hits and couldn’t get a runner past first base on the way to their season-high eighth straight loss. They scored a combined six runs in the four-game series.
“We definitely saw some good arms as of late,” Pittsburgh first baseman Josh Bell said. “All it takes is a big hit in a big situation to turn things around. I was there two or three weeks ago. Every out seems like two or three.”
Game note: Pirates closer Keone Kela likely isn’t returning to pitch for the Pirates with less than two weeks left in the season. He’s been out with right forearm inflammation.