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CIN@PIT: McDonald scatters five hits through eight vs. the Reds

The Reds have seen James McDonald pitch twice this season, and in each game the righty left their hitters looking for more at the plate.

In two starts against Cincinnati, McDonald is 2-0 with a 0.63 ERA. He allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings on May 5 and threw eight scoreless frames on May 28, averaging 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

Neither of those wins, however, came on the road, where McDonald has compiled a 5.04 ERA and let opponents bat .260 against him. On Saturday, he'll start for the Pirates against Mike Leake at Great American Ball Park, one night after the Reds opened the weekend's three-game series with a 3-0 win.

With Friday's victory, Cincinnati pushed its lead in the National League Central to 4 1/2 games.

In four starts since the All-Star break, McDonald has given up six home runs on his way to an 8.71 ERA. He'll be tasked with keeping the Reds from going yard, which they've done 123 times, second-most in the NL.

"He's making progress. The biggest thing we've been able to plow through is just getting him to understand that we don't need more," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "As he met the targets he set for himself in the first half, he felt like it was time for him to add on, just because of the way the first half went."

Cincinnati has punished nearly every opposing pitcher to cross its path during the past month or so, having won 21 of the past 24 games and averaged five runs a game during that stretch. They've also won four straight.

"Things are going well right now," catcher Ryan Hanigan said. "Guys are playing loose, taking real aggressive swings on pitches in the zone. Nothing surprises me with what we can do, especially when we're playing like this."

Pirates: McCutchen named NL's finest two months in a row
Andrew McCutchen was recently named the NL's Player of the Month for July, one month after taking home the same award in June. McCutchen finished July with a .446 batting average, seven home runs and 15 RBIs. He also put together a .510 on-base percentage and led the Major Leagues with 41 hits.

"He's been coming for the last couple years. He's just arrived there, that's all," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He's one of the most talented guys in this league. If you had to pick an MVP right now it'd probably be him."

McCutchen leads the Majors with a .373 average.

• Pittsburgh's 75 long balls away from home are easily the highest total in the league. Only the Angels, who have gone deep 79 times on the road, rank higher across baseball. The Pirates have homered 11 times in the first eight games of their current road trip and recorded at least one home run in 19 of their last 23 games.

• Garrett Jones went 0-for-4 on Friday night, failing to bring his nine-game hitting streak to double digits.

Reds: Leake coming off his shortest start of the season
Leake got the loss in his last outing, which saw the end of Cincinnati's 10-game winning streak. Facing the Padres, he was tagged for five runs in just 1 2/3 innings. He threw 49 pitches -- 25 of which went for strikes --and walked three batters. It was the first time this year that Leake failed to make it through at least two innings.

• The Reds' recent success is made more impressive after factoring in the absence of Joey Votto, who has not played since July 15 and had arthroscopic surgery to repair torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee on July 17. Plenty of players have picked up the slack, the most notable of whom is probably Ryan Ludwick. He has hit .358 (19-for-53) with six home runs and 20 RBIs since Votto was sidelined.

• Aroldis Chapman won the Delivery Man of the Month award for July, which goes to the most outstanding relief pitcher during each month of the regular season as voted on by a panel from Major League Baseball. Chapman went 13-for-13 in save opportunities and threw 14 1/3 scoreless innings. The left-hander allowed just six hits and two walks with 31 strikeouts in his 15 July appearances. Chapman earned his 24th save Friday night.

Worth noting
• The season series between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati is tied at five games apiece.

• In the ninth inning of Cincinnati's win on Friday, Chapman's first pitch to McCutchen registered 101 mph and hit what appeared to be the center fielder's shoulder. The ball was high and tight, but McCutchen was able to protect his head from the heater. He took his time in walking to first base, and was visibly upset in the dugout following the final out.

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