Right-hander Brad Lincoln makes a second spot start of the season tonight and can move the Pittsburgh Pirates a step closer to first place when they visit Great American Ball Park for game two of a three-game series with the host Cincinnati Reds.
Pittsburgh entered Tuesday's opener tied with the St. Louis Cardinals and trailing the Reds by three games in the National League's Central Division, but the Pirates took a game off the Cincinnati advantage and took sole possession of the No. 2 slot with an 8-4 victory.
The Cardinals lost, 9-8, at Houston.
Clint Barmes went 3-for-4 with three RBI and Neil Walker hit a two-run homer for the Pirates, who also got a home run, triple and two runs scored from Alex Presley and a homer and two RBI from Casey McGehee while winning for the eighth time in 10 games.
A.J. Burnett (5-2) gave up three runs on five hits and struck out eight over five frames to win his fourth straight start. Joel Hanrahan stranded two runners in the ninth to pick up his 15th save of the year.
Joey Votto drove in two runs while Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier each drove in a run for the Reds, losers in three of their last five.
Homer Bailey (4-4) lasted just three innings after giving up six runs on eight hits.
It was Bailey's first loss to the Pirates in seven career decisions.
Pittsburgh's Lincoln, filling in for injured teammate Charlie Morton, hasn't started since allowing two runs on four hits in six innings of a 3-2 victory at Miami on May 14.
He's made 13 appearances in relief, recording a 0.45 ERA with 23 strikeouts and 12 hits in 20 innings. He hasn't allowed a run since the Miami start - a streak of six appearances and 5 2/3 innings - in which he's surrendered just one hit and walked one with seven strikeouts.
Lincoln has made 18 career starts, including one against Cincinnati last Sept. 24, when he allowed two runs while scattering six hits and four walks in five innings of a 4-3 win.
Overall, in four appearances against the Reds, he has a 3.52 earned run average across 7 2/3 innings.
Cincinnati counters with Dominican righty Johnny Cueto, who tries to snap a skid that's seen him lose three of four decisions since opening the year with four consecutive wins.
The 26-year-old was a 2-1 loser to the Pirates in his most recent start on May 30, when he allowed two runs on five hits in seven innings but was beaten by Burnett, who allowed a run on two hits in seven innings.
Cueto is 11-4 lifetime against Pittsburgh with a 2.55 ERA in 106 innings, allowing 83 hits, striking out 100 batters and allowing a .213 average.
He's 2-1 in four starts at home this spring.
The Pirates have won four of seven from the Reds this season.