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PIT@CHC: Burnett one-hits the Cubs in 5-0 win

Timing has been on Pittsburgh's side during the Bucs' weekend series at Great American Ball Park.

Two of the Reds' best position players, Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips, are injured. And their ace pitcher, Johnny Cueto, isn't scheduled to start again until Tuesday, at which point the Pirates will be back at PNC Park.

But to this point, it hasn't mattered, as the Reds took the first two games of the series. Their lead over Pittsburgh in the National League Central is now 5 1/2 games, and they have won five straight and 22 of their last 25.

Cincinnati will go for the sweep in Sunday's finale against A.J. Burnett, the resurgent Pirates pitcher who came within four outs of a no-hitter in his last start. Burnett's opposition will be Homer Bailey, a fellow right-hander who got hit with six runs in less than four innings during his last trip to the mound.

Technically, it's Erik Bedard's turn to pitch in the Pirates' rotation, but an off-day on Thursday allowed manager Clint Hurdle to move his top hurler up a game with no shorter break than usual. Burnett has won three straight starts and 12 of his last 13 decisions. In two outings against the Reds this season, Burnett is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA.

"He was so efficient," Hurdle said after Burnett nearly no-hit the Cubs on Tuesday. "The curve was so sharp. ... That was one of the best games I've seen pitched -- ever."

As for Bailey, his last start wasn't quite as impressive. All six of the runs he surrendered came in the fourth inning, during which the Padres batted around, recording four singles, two triples and a home run courtesy of Cameron Maybin.

"Homer struggled in that inning," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We couldn't get anybody loose quick enough. It happened so quickly. He made some decent pitches. The only real bad pitch he made was to Maybin. It was a hanging slider, which he rocketed out of here. It got them right back into the game."

It was the second straight no-decision for Bailey. He posted five straight quality starts before being lit up by San Diego, going 4-0 with a 1.45 ERA during that stretch.

"Tonight, we picked up Homer," left fielder Ryan Ludwick said after Bailey's last outing. "He was throwing the ball outstanding as of late. We'll allow him this one hiccup."

In two starts against Pittsburgh this season, Bailey is 1-1 with a 5.25 ERA. Neil Walker hit a solo shot off him on June 6.

Pirates: McKenry's bat catching the attention of Hurdle
Hurdle rewarded Michael McKenry's recent hot hitting on Saturday by penciling the catcher into the No. 5 spot in the lineup. McKenry returned the favor by belting a home run, his 11th of the season. He also singled.

In his last nine games, McKenry is batting .433 (13-for-30) with with four home runs and 10 RBIs. On average, he's homering about every 12.5 at-bats, the most efficient percentage on the team.

"It's awesome to see. More motivation, and definitely encouraging," McKenry said. "At the same time, it's humbling. But everyone in this clubhouse works their tail off. We earn whatever we get."

Despite his Saturday output, McKenry likely won't catch on Sunday, as Burnett prefers throwing to Rod Barajas. Even so, that would give Pittsburgh a solid bat off the bench. After all, it was McKenry whose 10th-inning double off Aroldis Chapman on June 7 gave the stud reliever his first earned run of the season.

Reds: Navarro hitless in Cincy debut
Catcher Dioner Navarro made his Reds debut Saturday in the absence of Devin Mesoraco, who went on the seven-day disabled list Wednesday with a concussion. Navarro hadn't seen Major League action since August 2011, when he was with the Dodgers. On Saturday, Navarro went 0-for-4 with a strikeout.

• Phillips was initially in Cincinnati's lineup on Saturday, but he was scratched about 20 minutes prior to the first pitch by Baker. Phillips hasn't played since Tuesday, when he left the game against San Diego with a left calf strain. Phillips owns a .296 average with 13 home runs and 62 RBIs this season.

• Votto took batting practice on Friday and Saturday, but the Reds still have not released a timetable for his return. Votto has been out of the lineup since July 16 with a meniscus tear in his left knee. He's batting .342 with 14 home runs and 49 RBIs. Cincinnati is 16-3 since Votto has been out.

Worth noting
• The Pirates are 8-4 in their last 12 games at Great American Ball Park.

• Cincinnati is 6-5 against the Pirates this season. After Sunday, the two teams will meet six more times this year. Comments