CINCINNATI (AP) — Scott Rolen's three-run homer started an early splurge off right-hander Charlie Morton — the major leagues' leader in losses — and the Cincinnati Reds rolled to their best record since 2006 by beating the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-2 on Thursday night.
The NL Central leaders have won 21 of their last 30 games, moving a season-high eight over .500 at 28-20. They haven't been that well off since '06, also was the last time they were in first place so deep into a season.
Cincinnati batted around in each of the first two innings for seven runs off Morton (1-9), who had his second-shortest start of the season.
Johnny Cueto (5-1) won his fourth straight start, showing no trouble with a blister that forced him out of his last game. The right-hander gave up three hits and struck out a season-high nine during six shutout innings.
The Reds took three of four from the Pirates, who had no chance after Morton had another meltdown. Pittsburgh lost 4-0 on Wednesday night — the eighth time the Pirates were blanked this season, most in the majors — and their scoreless-innings streak reached 15 a day later. Aki Iwamura ended it with a pinch-hit, RBI single in the seventh.
Rolen's three-run homer snapped a personal 0 for 11 skid and extended one of the best power streaks in club history. Cincinnati has homered in its last 16 games, the best in the majors this season. The streak is tied for fourth-longest in Reds history — the 1956 club homered in 21 straight for the record.
Jay Bruce followed with his first homer since April 29, a sign that things weren't going to get any better for Morton. The first two innings lasted 59 minutes, with Morton throwing 68 pitches in all. His earned run average rose to 9.35.
The Pirates' best hope was that Cueto would have more problems with the blister on his right index finger, which forced him out of a 6-4 win in Cleveland after six innings on Saturday.
No problems at all.
Cueto threw a one-hitter in Pittsburgh on May 11 for a 9-0 win, with Ronny Cedeno's single off shortstop Paul Janish's glove going for a single. In the rematch, he allowed two singles by Jeff Clement and a double by Cedeno. In his last four starts, Cueto is 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA.
NOTES: The Pirates headed for a weekend series in Atlanta. ... 3B Andy LaRoche was back in the lineup after missing five games with a sore back. He had a throwing error that prolonged the second inning. ... Neil Walker, called up on Tuesday, made his first start at 2B, a position he learned during spring training. ... The Reds plan to promote RHP Sam LeCure from Triple-A Indianapolis to start on Friday in the series opener against Houston. LeCure will make his major league debut, filling in for RH Homer Bailey while he recovers from an inflamed pitching shoulder. ... 1B Joey Votto missed his second straight game with a sore neck.