Pirates-Reds Preview

The Associated Press

The Cincinnati Reds have had a hard time coming up with big hits in clutch situations lately.

Pittsburgh's Jeff Locke, who continues to surprise, will try to extend Cincinnati's woes Wednesday night at Great American Ball Park.

The Pirates (42-29) ended Mat Latos' streak of 21 straight regular-season starts without a loss - despite his nine strikeouts in five innings - with a 4-0 victory on Tuesday. Cincinnati equaled Pittsburgh's four hits, but was hitless in five at-bats with men in scoring position while the Pirates were 3 for 9.

Pittsburgh's 12th shutout, which leads baseball, also was the second for the Reds (43-29) in their last four games. They've managed 20 runs over their last seven games while batting .219, including .125 with runners in scoring position. They're 1 for 25 in such situations in their last four contests.

Cleanup hitter Brandon Phillips is 1 for 16 in the last four games, leaving seven runners on base.

Tensions also flared up Tuesday as Pirates starter Charlie Morton hit Shin-Soo Choo with his first pitch. He also later hit Xavier Paul and buzzed Joey Votto with a pitch inside.

Choo being hit didn't sit well with Latos. The Pirates have hit 39 batters, more than any other team. Choo, though, has also been hit 19 times - the most in baseball.

"It's time that somebody stepped up and did something about the team that's hit more guys in the league than anybody," Latos said.

A win for the Pirates would move them past the Reds for second place in the NL Central.

Locke (6-1, 2.19 ERA) is 3-0 with a 0.98 ERA over his last six starts and allowed two hits over seven innings in Friday's 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Barely earning the job as the team's fifth starter out of spring training, Locke seems to have settled in.

"I wouldn't say (my) comfort level has changed at all," said the left-hander, who earned his first win of the season on April 13 against Cincinnati, giving up one run and four hits over five innings in a 3-1 final. "It's still uncomfortable. The confidence is definitely there. That's something I've gained into spring training and I've been able to carry it through the first half of the season so far."

The Reds counter with Bronson Arroyo (6-5, 3.27), who has an 8.40 ERA in losing each of his last three starts versus Pittsburgh, failing twice to last more than four innings.

Cincinnati will hope his recent success - he owns a 1.66 ERA over his last three outings overall - can translate to Wednesday. The right-hander gave up a season-high 12 hits in Friday's 4-3 victory over Milwaukee, but his ability to go 7 2-3 innings was crucial after the Reds used seven pitchers in a 14-inning loss to the Chicago Cubs a day earlier.

"I knew the bullpen was tired and I needed to go deep into the game," Arroyo said. "Luckily, they swung at a lot of first pitches. I think I only had like 30 pitches after four innings."

Neil Walker is 5 for 11 against Arroyo while Pedro Alvarez is 4 for 8 with a homer and three doubles. Andrew McCutchen is only 1 for 19, the lone hit a home run.

Walker is hitless in six at-bats in this series, and 1 for 17 in his last five games versus the Reds.

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