As Pittsburgh's A.J. Burnett continued his recent mastery last week against the Cincinnati Reds, Homer Bailey managed to baffle the Pirates yet again.
With Burnett and Bailey each riding three-start winning streaks, runs could be at a premium Tuesday night as Pittsburgh tries for a fifth consecutive road victory over NL Central-leading Cincinnati in the opener of a three-game set.
Aside from yielding a career-worst 12 runs in 2 2-3 innings of a 12-3 loss at St. Louis on May 2, Burnett (4-2, 3.60 ERA) has pitched well. The veteran right-hander has a 1.52 ERA over his other seven outings, yielding two runs or fewer in each.
"He's been very consistent," manager Clint Hurdle said of Burnett, acquired from the New York Yankees during the offseason. "I think that's one of the things he was looking forward to was coming here and being 'the guy.'"
Burnett came up big again Wednesday in a 2-1 win over the Reds (30-23), giving up an unearned run and two hits over seven innings.
"I've been around a long time," said Burnett, who is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his last three matchups with Cincinnati. "I'm no All-Star, I'm no Cy Young but I've been through the battles. I know what it's like to win. I know what it's like to lose. ... I'll do anything I can to help, that's why I'm here."
Burnett has allowed four home runs this season but faces a Reds team that's gone deep 20 times in winning seven of eight at home. Cincinnati is 23-6 when hitting at least one homer and 7-17 when failing to do so.
The Reds, who posted back-to-back wins before falling 5-3 at Houston on Sunday, have to like their chances of getting back on track behind Bailey (4-3, 3.73).
The right-hander allowed four hits and struck out five in recording his second career complete game - both against the Pirates (27-26) - in last Tuesday's 8-1 victory at PNC Park.
Bailey, who threw a four-hitter during a 5-0 road win over Pittsburgh on May 12, 2010, is 6-0 with a 1.79 ERA against the Pirates.
"He's been getting progressively better every outing," manager Dusty Baker said. "He had great command of his fastball, and he threw some outstanding breaking balls and changeups and he minimized his pitches."
Neil Walker is 2 for 15 against Bailey while Clint Barmes is 1 for 13. Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez have also struggled, going 2 for 10 and 0 for 6, respectively.
After going hitless in his last 18 at-bats, Alvarez, batting .194, was benched during Sunday's 6-5 win at Milwaukee. It's unknown how Hurdle plans to use the once highly touted third baseman going forward.
"We've got to clean the deck," he told the team's official website." ... I told him, 'Don't even swing a bat unless I need you late. It's not like you're going to forget how to swing a bat.' He needs a mind break."
Winners of six of seven at Great American Ball Park, the Pirates have outscored the Reds 26-12 en route to taking four in a row there. Pittsburgh hasn't won five straight at Cincinnati since a seven-game run spanning the 2002 and '03 seasons.
Slowing down Joey Votto could be key if it hopes to match that run. Votto, batting .439 with five homers in his last 19 home games, has gone 19 for 33 (.576) during an overall 10-game hitting streak.