PITTSBURGH - Things went a whole lot better for Johnny Cueto than it did the last two times he took the mound at PNC Park.
The Reds right-hander allowed only one hit in eight innings Friday night to lead Cincinnati to a 6-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Cueto's final regular-season start of 2012 came at Pittsburgh and he missed a chance at a 20-win season when he did not factor in the decision. On April 13, he suffered a strained right lat muscle that forced him onto the disabled list for five weeks.
This time, Cueto (3-0) nearly threw a no-hitter as Brandon Inge's single to left field with one out in the fifth inning was the lone hit for the Pirates (34-21), who lost for just the fifth time in their last 21 games.
Cueto walked one, hit a batter and struck out six as he improved to a 13-4 in his career against Pittsburgh and 8-2 in 13 starts at PNC Park. He also helped the Reds (34-21) end a two-game losing streak.
Sam LeCure finished the shutout with a 1-2-3 ninth inning.
Wandy Rodriguez (6-3) took the loss and had his four-start winning streak snapped despite giving up just two runs on five hits in seven innings.
Both runs came on solo home runs by Jay Bruce in the fourth inning and Brandon Phillips in the sixth.
It was Bruce's eighth homer of the season and Phillips' ninth. Bruce had been 2-for-33 against Rodriguez with 16 strikeouts in his career.
Bruce and Phillips each had two of the Reds' eight hits and Derrick Robinson had two RBIs.
Cincinnati increased its lead to 4-0 with two runs in the eighth as Phillips scored on a wild pitch by Mike Zagurski and Robinson singled in a run.
The Reds scored twice more in the ninth on a pair of consecutive bases-loaded walk to make it 6-0. Robinson drew the first one from Zagurski then Bryan Morris relieved and walked Ryan Hanigan.
Zagurski was charged with four runs in 1 2/3 innings and needed 57 pitches to get his five outs.
The game was contentious at times.
In the first inning, Pittsburgh center fielder Andrew McCutchen was hit in the back of the left shoulder blade by a Cueto pitch. McCutchen then successfully broke up a double play with a hard hook slide into shortstop Zack Cozart on a ground ball by Garrett Jones.
Phillips was hit in the left lower leg by a pitch from Zagurski to lead off the eighth in his first plate appearance after his home run. Phillips then stole second base, knocking shortstop Clint Barmes over with a hard slide.
NOTES: Pittsburgh 3B Pedro Alvarez sat out a second straight game after having dental surgery Thursday to remove two wisdom teeth. INF/OF Brandon Inge again started at third base. ... Cincinnati OF Chris Heisey (strained right hamstring) ran sprints before Friday's game and said he is "getting close" to going on a rehab assignment in the minor leagues. He has been on the disabled list since April 28. ... It was the 1,000th game played at PNC Park, which opened in 2001. ... Reds RHP Mike Leake (4-2, 3.02) will face Pirates LHP Francisco Liriano (3-1, 2.35) on Saturday night in the middle game of the three-game series.