Johnny Cueto dominated the Pirates again over six innings, Paul Janish homered and drove in four runs and the Cincinnati Reds assured themselves of staying atop the NL Central with a 9-4 victory over Pittsburgh on Wednesday.
Rookie Juan Francisco had three hits and drove in a run in his second start of the season, and NL batting leader Joey Votto doubled twice to raise his average to .324 after a sore right wrist kept him out of the lineup for two games.
Andrew McCutchen, back in the lineup 17 hours after being struck in the neck by a 90-mph fastball from the Reds' Mike Leake, ended Cueto's 18-inning scoreless streak against Pittsburgh by leading off the first with his ninth homer. The Pirates, as usual, did nothing after that against Cueto (11-2), who has nine of his 31 career victories against them.
Janish, filling in at shortstop for the injured Orlando Cabrera, hit a three-run homer during a six-run seventh inning against three relievers that made it 9-1. Janish had three hits, including a two-out, run-scoring single in the second off Jeff Karstens (2-7) after the Pirates elected to pitch to him rather than intentionally walk him to get to Cueto.
Votto and Jonny Gomes doubled in runs against reliever Wil Ledezma in the seventh ahead of Laynce Nix's RBI triple and Janish's third homer, and only his second since April 14. The Reds outhit the Pirates 16-7.
Cueto is 3-0 against Pittsburgh this season, throwing a one-hitter during a 9-0 victory on May 11 in PNC Park, and is 5-0 overall in his last seven starts.
The Reds, 10-1-1 in their last 12 series after taking two of three games in Pittsburgh, won their sixth in eight games overall as they enjoy being in first place this late in the season for the first time since the final week of the 1999 season. They own a one-game lead over St. Louis, which played Houston on Wednesday night.
Cincinnati has won eight of its last 10 against the Pirates (37-70), who became the first NL team to reach the 70-loss mark. Pinch-hitter Jeff Clement had a two-run homer in the seventh against Bill Bray and rookie Pedro Alvarez hit a solo drive in the ninth for Pittsburgh.
The Pirates, fast closing in on a record-extending 18th consecutive losing season, are on pace to lose 107 games. Only one Pirates team since 1890 have lost that many games — the 1952 Pirates lost 112 times in a 154-game season.
Don't look for the Pirates to schedule many weekday afternoon home games next season, either. They are 0-4 in such games this season, getting outscored 44-6 — including a club record-setting 20-0 loss to Milwaukee on April 22.
Notes: The Pirates have lost six of seven and 10 of 13. ... Pittsburgh has scored four runs for Karstens in his last four starts. ... The Reds are 31-18 against the NL Central. ... Cueto is 9-2 overall against Pittsburgh.