It was the most strikeouts for Velasquez (3-2) since May 10, 2018, when he had 12 for the Phillies against the Giants. He allowed two hits and walked two.
“Sometimes, you could be dominant and locate everything in the bullpen and when it goes to the game, you could be out of whack, out of sync,” Velasquez said. “I wasn’t trying to overthrow. Wasn’t trying to locate too much. It was just staying within myself and trusting the stuff I have.”
The Pirates improved to 16-7 for the franchise’s best start since its last division title in 1992. Pittsburgh allowed six runs in the four-game series against Cincinnati after outscoring the Rockies 33-9 across a three-game sweep in Colorado.
It is Pittsburgh’s longest streak since winning 11 straight in 2018.
David Bednar struck out two in the ninth for his eighth save, finishing a four-hitter.
Pittsburgh jumped in front in the first against Greene (0-1). Ke’Bryan Hayes led off with a double to the gap in right-center. He moved to third on Tucupita Marcano’s single and scampered home when Andrew McCutchen grounded into a double play.
“It was really important. Hunter Greene is good,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. “In games like this, where the margin of error is going to be so small, you have to make sure you take advantage of every opportunity.”
Greene allowed four hits, struck out six and walked two in his best start of the season, but Cincinnati dropped its sixth straight game. The Reds have scored six runs during the slide.
Pittsburgh grabbed a 2-0 lead when Carlos Santana scored from second on Jack Suwinski’s two-out double against Fernando Cruz in the eighth.
Velasquez got himself into trouble with one out in the third, walking Jose Barrero and Luke Maile. The right-hander then got Jonathan India to fly to right and coaxed TJ Friedl into a grounder to third.
Since being tagged for eight runs in 7 1/3 innings across his first two starts, Velasquez has surrendered three in his past 19 innings.
“In attack mode the entire time,” Shelton said of Velasquez. “He was outstanding. That was just about as good as you could be.”
WHAT A START
Pirates starters have gone at least six innings without allowing more than three earned runs in 12 of the past 13 games. The only exception came Saturday, when Rich Hill gave up one run but lasted just five innings in a 2-1 win.
BIG LEAGUE DREAM
The Pirates called up 33-year-old infielder Drew Maggi from Double-A Altoona. Outfielder Bryan Reynolds was placed on the bereavement list, and first baseman Ji Man Choi (left Achilles strain) was transferred to the 60-day injured list.
Maggi is looking for his big league debut. He has played 1,155 games in 13 minor league seasons. He was selected by the Minnesota Twins on Sept. 18, 2021, but never appeared in a game.
“It’s cool, man. It’s emotional,” Shelton said. “When I told a couple guys yesterday, this is what we’re going to do, the smiles on players’ faces is what says it all. Being able to give him a hug this morning, that’s like being able to do something with one of your kids.”
Reds: LHP Nick Lodolo (2-1, 4.98 ERA) will start Monday for the first of a three-game home series against the Texas Rangers.
Pirates: RHP Johan Oviedo (2-1, 2.22 ERA) will take the mound Tuesday to begin a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
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