By HAL McCOY
There will be no seventh straight series victory for the Cincinnati Reds, not after their second straight defeat Saturday night in a three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The Reds had won six straight series, all by two games to one, against Milwaukee, Atlanta, Arizona, San Francisco, San Diego and St. Louis
It was an ugly night for Homer Bailey, making his second start in 15 months. He gave up five runs and eight hits in three-plus innings and the Pirates pinned a 5-3 defeat on the Reds.
BAILEY’S FIRST START AGAINSt the San Diego Padres was a roaring success, but on Saturday night his velocity was down and his command was off and the only similarity between the Padres and Pirates is their nicknames, both begin with ‘P’ and end with ‘S.’
To his credit, Bailey said after the game he wouldn’t use his long layoff as an excuse and said he just pitched a bad game.
The only highlight of the night for the Reds was the two home runs hit by Brandon Phillips. When he connected for his first one of the night it was his first home run in 287 at bats over 72 games. But he struck out to end the game against Pittsburgh closer Tony Watson, who blew a save in the ninth inning Friday night.
THE PIRATES SCORED A QUICK run in the first inning when with one out Starling Marte doubled and Andrew McCutchen singled for a 1-0 lead.
The Reds were facing Ivan Nova, a pitcher the Pirates just acquired from the New York Yankees, and they scored two against him in the second inning.
Phillips led the inning with his first home run, Eugenio doubled and Tucker Barnhart singled him home for a 2-1 Reds lead.
Pittsburgh grabbed the lead for good in the third inning with a pair of runs, an inning that began when Cincinnati native Josh Harrison bunted down the third base line.
Reds third baseman Eugenio Suarez should have picked up the bunt and held it. But he tried to get Harrison at first base and threw it into right field and Harrison ended up on second.
BAILEY RETIRED THE NEXT two, but he walked Matt Joyce and then hit the next two Pirates with pitches, forcing in a run. Francisco Cervelli singled behind second base and another run scored for a 3-2 Pittsburgh lead.
It all came unglued in the third when Bailey didn’t retire a batter. Pitcher Ivan Nova, who was 1 for 20 for his career with 17 strikeouts, started the inning by rolling a seeing-eye single into center field.
Josh Harrison then hit one off the top of the right field scoreboard. But Nova, unaccustomed to being on base, stood between first and second watching the ball. So he only reached second base and Harrison had one of the longest singles of the season.
Josh Smith replaced Bailey and threw a wild pitch, moving the runners to third and second. Starling Marte singled into center field for two runs — both charged to Bailey.
PHILLIPS CONNECTED FOR HIS second home run of the night leading off seventh, cutting Pittsburgh’s margin to 5-3. And that was it.
The Reds had something going in the eighth inning until third baseman Jung Ho Kang intervened.
Tucker Barnhart and pinch-hitter Ivan DeJesus Jr. singled to open the eighth, putting the tying runs on base with no outs.
Kang entered the game in the bottom of the seventh because regular third baseman David Freese left with a stiff elbow.
Billy Hamilton punched one right at the third base bag, a possible two-run game-tying double. Except for Kang. He backhanded the ball on a short hop right at the bag. He stepped on third to force Barnhart and fired to second to double up DeJesus. Zack Cozart grounded out and the Reds threat wilted.
Watson, the Pirates new closer after they traded Mark Melancon to Washington, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to finish it, getting Joey Votto on a weak grounder, Adam Duvall on a nine-pitch at bat that ended with a fly to right and a strikeout of Phillips.