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Pirates survive as Locke, Bailey engage in duel

The SportsXchange

CINCINNATI -- Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke had no issues with his back on Sunday, but he did struggle momentarily with a divot on the mound. After walking back-to-back hitters with one out in the fifth inning, Locke made a change.

"I kept landing in the same hole," he said. "I just moved over to the right side (of the rubber). Once I got past that inning, I moved back. I kept trying to fill it in. I wasn't going to call out the grounds crew. This is baseball. I just moved."

Locke got Shin-Soo Choo to pop out for the final out in the fifth. It was Cincinnati's lone scoring threat against Locke, who allowed just one run and one hit through six innings, lifting the Pirates to a 3-2 victory over the Reds in the finale of a three-game series at Great American Ball Park.

"That's the kind of team we are," Locke said. "We don't always do things by the book. I just made an adjustment."

Garrett Jones hit his 10th homer for Pittsburgh. Jason Grilli pitched the ninth for his 30th save.

Locke (9-2) hadn't pitched since July 8. He was scratched from his last scheduled start due to lower back stiffness. But he had no pitch-count limitations on Sunday.

"I stand by the decision that was made by the club and myself, that it was more important to miss a start and get healthy," Locke said. "My back felt great today."

Choo's infield single leading off the game was the only hit Locke allowed. He walked four and struck out six over 87 pitches.

Reds starter Homer Bailey (5-9) allowed three earned runs on seven hits, with one walk and a career-high 12 strikeouts over 121 pitches.

"That's the best I've ever seen Bailey," Jones said. "He was hitting his spots. His velocity was up. We were just able to grind out some at-bats."

Bailey, who has allowed 27 hits over three starts since no-hitting the Giants on July 2, gave up a solo homer to Jones putting the Pirates ahead 1-0 in the second.

"I hung that first pitch to Jones and he did what you're supposed to do," Bailey said.

Locke issued the back-to-back walks with one out in the fifth. Bailey bunted the runners into scoring position, and Zack Cozart scored from third on a wild pitch by Locke that bounced past Michael McKenry tying the score 1-1.

"I just threw it straight into the ground," said Locke, who escaped further trouble after making his adjustment on the mound.

The Pirates regained their lead in the seventh when McKenry doubled and scored on Jordy Mercer's single putting Pittsburgh ahead, 2-1. Pinch-hitter Jose Tabata followed with a single, scoring Mercer to make the score 3-1.

"To play three games here and not get any hits with runners in scoring position could've been problematic," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "We were able to find a way to do that today. Bailey had it going on. But our hitters just kept after it."

Cincinnati loaded the bases with nobody out in the eighth against Mark Melancon. Joey Votto grounded into a 3-6-1 double play, and Derrick Robinson scored to get the Reds within one run.

Melancon then got Brandon Phillips to ground to short ending the inning. Cincinnati went 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position and left six runners on base.

"That kind of irked me a little bit," said Reds manager Dusty Baker said of the missed opportunity in the eighth. "We didn't have a whole lot of hits. Homer was dealing. It's kind of rough when you're throwing the ball like that and you can't get any hits."

Pirates relievers have allowed just two earned runs in their past 26 1/3 innings.

"There are a lot of games left," Jones said. "To get this final game (of the weekend series) was big. Every game matters. But maybe this will get us on a roll."

NOTES: Choo's infield single in the first inning extended his hitting streak to a career-high 15 games. ... Reds C Corky Miller, 37, is the oldest player to start behind the plate for Cincinnati since Bob Scheffing in 1951. ... Reds LF Ryan Ludwick, who's been on the disabled list since suffering a shoulder injury on Opening Day, will begin a minor-league rehab assignment with Single-A Dayton on Wednesday. The rehab stint could last up to 20 days. ... Pittsburgh 2B Neil Walker made what the Pirates hope is his final rehab start for Triple-A Indianapolis on Sunday before being reinstated from the disabled list on Monday. Walker was expected to play nine innings Sunday then be reevaluated. ... Reds RHP Greg Reynolds is expected to be called up from Triple-A Louisville and pitch the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader in San Francisco. Reynolds, the second overall pick by the Rockies in the 2006 draft, is 10-2 with a 2.54 ERA in 18 starts at Triple-A. "I had to transition to being more of a pitcher," Reynolds said. "I had to execute better. I'm looking forward to proving I belong here."
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