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Reds-Pirates Preview

AP - Sports

It's been more than two weeks since the Pittsburgh Pirates won back-to-back games.

The Pirates again try to make it two in a row Sunday when they conclude a three-game set with the Cincinnati Reds at PNC Park.

Only twice this season Pittsburgh (12-15) has won two straight games, most recently April 17-18 at Arizona. Since those victories, the Pirates are 7-8 and looking for anything to help them string some victories together.

They certainly have something to build on after James McDonald threw 6 1-3 strong innings and Neil Walker hit a two-run shot for his first homer since Sept. 4 in Saturday's 3-2 victory over Cincinnati (13-13).

"You think, let's get that one hit, something to break it open,'' manager Clint Hurdle said. "That's not where we're living right now.

"This might be one of the better games we played, and needed to play, to win the game."

Batting .378 (14 for 37) in his last 10 games, Walker has hit .368 with that home run and 10 RBIs in 17 career home contests against the Reds, who had won four of five heading into Saturday.

"Home runs come and go," Walker told the Pirates' official website. "I'm not going up there trying to hit the ball out of the park."

After managing four runs and 13 hits in the first two games of the set, the Pirates could face a difficult challenge against scheduled Cincinnati starter Mat Latos (1-2, 5.97 ERA). The right-hander is 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA in three starts versus Pittsburgh.

In addition to facing Pittsburgh, Latos also should be happy to see the calendar turn to May after another rough April. He is 2-8 with a 5.73 ERA in 13 career starts in April, but 7-3 with a 2.41 ERA over 12 in May.

Latos looks to bounce back after he allowed five runs and a season-high10 hits - including two homers - in 6 1-3 innings before leaving without a decision in a 6-5 win over Houston on Sunday.

"It was not a good outing," Latos told the Reds' official website.

The Pirates counter with Charlie Morton (1-2, 4.22), who looks to continue his recent success against the Reds while trying to rebound from his worst start of the season. The right-hander allowed six runs and eight hits in a season-low 4 1-3 innings of a 10-7 loss at St. Louis on Tuesday.

"However the guys get on, they get on, and you have to make pitches and get out of situations,'' Morton said. "You have to do your job.''

He's been able to do that while going 3-0 with a 1.53 ERA in his last five starts against the Reds since giving up seven runs - five earned - in two innings of an 8-2 loss at Cincinnati on May 27, 2010. Morton allowed two runs over 11 innings to go 1-0 in two home starts versus Cincinnati in 2011.

Reds slugger Joey Votto is a lifetime .238 hitter versus Morton, but he had two hits Saturday to raise his average to .360 in 31 games at PNC Park.

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