Johnny Cueto usually seems to be able to defeat the Pirates at will, so the Pirates’ 2-1 win over Cueto and the Reds Wednesday night was a big one, returning them to .500 as they head into a series in Milwaukee.
Heading into the game, Cueto had an 11-3 record and a 2.55 ERA in his career against the Bucs. The Reds scored a run in the first thanks in part to a Pedro Alvarez error, and the Pirates failed to score in the second inning even after Garrett Jones tripled with one out — Matt Hague and Jose Tabata grounded out to end the threat. After five innings, it looked like Cueto might be able to pull off a 1-0 victory.
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, though, Neil Walker walked, and Garrett Jones singled. Hague, who had failed to bring Jones home in the second, came to the plate, and this time he came through, lifting a double to the gap in right-center and bringing home both runners.
The Pirates were able to maintain their 2-1 lead. A.J. Burnett went seven innings and was charged with just that one unearned run. The toxic Jason Grilli struck out two batters in the eighth, and Joel Hanrahan picked up the save, whiffing two of his own in the ninth after putting two batters on.
New shortstop Jordy Mercer singled in the first for his first big-league hit.
The Pirates (25-25) have a day off Thursday before kicking off their Brewers series Friday night.