Pirates aim for back-to-back wins over Reds

David Bednar has returned to form for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who aim to make it two straight wins over the visiting Cincinnati Reds when the teams meet on Tuesday.

Bednar earned his 15th save when he retired the Reds in order in the ninth inning of a 4-1 victory on Monday. The two-time All-Star has converted 14 consecutive save opportunities after struggling to begin the season, when he had an 11.70 ERA through the end of April.

“The guys have been sticking with me and having confidence in me, and it means a lot,” Bednar said. “I love these guys, and it’s been a lot of fun.”

The Pirates are 28-4 when leading after seven innings thanks in part to the late-inning trio of Aroldis Chapman, Colin Holderman and Bednar. All three pitched a scoreless inning in the Monday win.

Pittsburgh has won three of its past four games, while the Reds have lost three straight and five of the past seven.

Cincinnati manager David Bell was encouraged by his team’s approach at the plate despite the Monday loss. Shortstop Elly De La Cruz led the Reds with three hits and stole his major-league-leading 37th base.

“Our at-bats throughout the game, we were able to hit some balls really hard,” Bell said. “We’ve just got to continue with our process, continue to hit the ball hard, and we’ll be in good shape.”

Nick Lodolo (7-2, 2.93 ERA) will take the mound for Cincinnati in search of his fifth straight winning start. He allowed two runs over six innings while throwing a season-high 102 pitches in a 4-2 win over the Cleveland Guardians on Wednesday.

Andrew McCutchen is 1-for-9 with a home run and three walks against the 26-year-old left-hander, who owns a 1-1 record and 3.97 ERA in two career starts vs. the Pirates.

Pittsburgh will counter with left-hander Bailey Falter (3-4, 3.86 ERA), who has allowed a total of eight runs and 16 hits across eight innings in his past two starts after posting a 2.23 ERA in five outings last month.

Falter, 27, gave up three runs on eight hits over four innings in a 4-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday.

“I’m struggling right now a little bit,” Falter said. “I need to get back on the right track here pretty soon. I’ve got to keep going, honestly. … You’ve got to roll with the punches sometimes.”

Spencer Steer is 4-for-6 with a home run against Falter, who has gone 0-1 with a 7.79 ERA in five career games (three starts) against Cincinnati.

The Reds are monitoring the status of center fielder TJ Friedl, who exited the Monday game due to right hamstring tightness after making a diving catch on Nick Gonzales’ liner in the fifth inning.

Friedl expressed optimism about the injury after the game.

“I did testing on my hamstring, and it’s full strength,” he said. “Full range of motion. It was just tight. All things considered, I think it’s really encouraging.”

Pirates left fielder Bryan Reynolds had two doubles and an RBI in the series opener to extend his hitting streak to 15 games, which is the longest active streak in the majors.

Reynolds is hitting .349 (22-for-63) with two home runs, nine RBIs and nine runs during his streak.

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