PITTSBURGH (AP) Connor Joe had three hits and reached base four times to back a strong start by Mitch Keller and lead the Pittsburgh Pirates over the Cincinnati Reds 4-2 on Friday night for their fifth straight win.

At 14-7, the Pirates are off to their best start since 2002. Pittsburgh lost 101 games in 2021 and 100 last season.

Pittsburgh's winning streak is its longest since Derek Shelton became manager prior to the 2020 season.

“It says a lot about the style of baseball we’re playing,” Joe said. “We’re grinding out at bats. We’re running the bases really hard and that type of baseball puts a lot of pressure on the other team.”

Cincinnati has lost four in a row and is 5-12 since opening the season by winning two of three from the Pirates. The Reds have five runs and 22 hits during the losing streak - 19 singles and two doubles.

Acquired from Colorado in an offseason trade, Joe went 3 for 3 with a walk and raising his batting average to .377. He was selected by the Pirates in the first round of the 2014 amateur draft and traded to Atlanta three years later for infielder-outfielder Sean Rodríguez.

“I think he gets overlooked,” Shelton said. “He was a guy we targeted in the offseason because of the way he controls at bats, and he continues to get better in the outfield. I use this term a lot but Connor Joe’s a baseball player. You talk to him, the way he prepares, the way he goes about it, he’s locked in every pitch regardless if he’s playing or not.”

Keller (2-0) gave up two runs and four hits in six innings with five strikeouts and one walk. He is unbeaten in five starts and pitched Pittsburgh’s 11th straight quality start.

“We’ve seen Mitch Keller a lot and that might have been the best stuff we’ve seen him have,” Reds manager David Bell said. “He’s good pitcher but his stuff was really good tonight.”

Keller believes the Pirates’ string of quality starts isn’t a fluke.

“We’re being very consistent in executing our gameplan, the defense has been playing great, the catchers have been calling good pitches,” Keller said. “I think it’s a testament to us starters filling up the zone with as many strikes as possible and putting pressure on (the hitters) rather than them putting pressure on us.”

Robert Stephenson, Colin Holderman and David Bednar finished a five-hitter, with Bednar pitching the ninth for his seventh save in eight chances.

With the score 2-2, Joe singled with one out in the sixth and advanced on a wild pitch by Derek Law (0-3) then took third on Jack Suwinski’s groundout. Shortstop Jose Barrero fumbled Mark Mathias’ grounder for an error that allowed Joe to score.

Carlos Santana added an RBI double in the seventh against Ian Gibaut.

Mathis hit a two-run single in the second off Graham Aschraft, who allowed three hits in five innings while striking out four and walking three. He gave up three runs over 19 innings in his first three starts this season.

“I thought he finished strong, and his slider was really good,” Bell said.


Reds: There is no timetable for 1B Joey Votto (left rotator cuff surgery) to resume his rehab assignment with Triple-A Louisville that was paused last Saturday.

Pirates: Triple-A Indianapolis C Endy Rodríguez was placed on the 7-day IL with a strained right forearm and Low-A Bradenton INF Termarr Johnson (strained right hamstring) was activated from the 7-day IL. They are considered the organization’s top two prospects.


Reds RHP Luis Cessa (0-2, 13.50) is scheduled to face LHP Rich Hill (1-2, 5.57) on Saturday night in the third game of the four-game series.


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