By HAL McCOY
The Cincinnati Reds’ avoidance of home plate continued Thursday night in Pittsburgh — they are steering clear of home plate as if they fear it is infected with an incurable disease.
For the second straight game the Reds were shut out, this time 2-0 by the Pittsburgh Pirates after they lost Wednesday to Milwaukee, 1-0. It was the third time in six games the Reds have concluded games with ‘0’ on the scoreboard.
And the runless streak stretched to 19 straight innings.
After wasting a superb start Wednesday by Luis Castillo, they wasted another Thursday, this one by Tyler Mahle, a rotation insertion only because Alex Wood is on the injured list with lower back pain.
Mahle pitched six scoreless innings, giving up five hits, no walks and striking out five. He threw 78 pitches and found the strike zone 53 times.
Jordan Lyles, making his first start for the Pirates, held the Reds to no runs and three hits, with three walks and two strikeouts over five innings.
But while the Pittsburgh bullpen kept the Reds off the scoreboard, the Reds’ bullpen was far from untouchable.
Mahle was taken down for a pinch-hitter in the top of the seventh and David Hernandez came in to pitch the seventh and the Pirates reached him for a run.
Melky Cabrera poked a one-out single to right field and J.B. Shuck followed with another single to right, putting runners on third and first. Cabrera scored on a weak ground ball to first base by Kevin Newman.
Michael Lorenzen pitched the eighth and the Pirates scored another run on three straight singles by Starling Marte, Francisco Cervelli and Josh Bell.
Just as they did Wednesday against Milwaukee and failed, the Reds threatened in the ninth inning and failed.
Pinch-hitter Matt Kemp struck out with one out but reached first on a wild pitch on strike three against Pittsburgh closer Felipe Vazquez.
Jose Iglesias doubled to right center putting runners on third and second with one out, the potential tying runs.
But pinch-hitter Curt Casali took a called third strike and pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer, batting for Jesse Winker, also struck out.
The Reds stranded 10 base runners and were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position. With their fifth straight loss, the Reds are 1-and-5 despite a team earned run average of 2.89.
On the positive side, Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler both collected their first hits of the season. Winker, 0 for 16, singled with two outs in the fifth. Schebler 0 for 18, doubled with two outs in the sixth.
Neither advanced after getting on base, a serious malady for the team thus far as finding home plate has been as difficult as finding Judge Crater and Jimmy Hoffa.