PITTSBURGH (AP) — It had been nearly a year since Josh Harrison hit a home run.
He ended his drought Friday night while Juan Nicasio struck out eight in seven scoreless innings and Matt Joyce connected as a pinch-hitter to lead the Pirates to a 4-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds, extending Pittsburgh’s winning streak to five games.
Nicasio (3-2) allowed three hits and one walk in sending the Reds to their fifth straight loss. Signed as a free agent in the offseason, Nicasio has won all three home starts with a 1.89 ERA while losing both road starts with a 6.75 ERA.
Harrison hit his first home run since May 15, a span of 379 at-bats, into the bleachers in right field with two outs in the fourth to raise the Pirates’ lead to 2-0. An inning earlier, David Freese hit a two-out RBI single.
“I knew it had been a while,” said Harrison, whose has gone deep just 25 times in his six-year career. “I never go up to the plate looking to hit a home run. When they come, they come.”
Joyce sliced a two-run home run off the foul pole in left, his third, in the seventh inning to make it 4-0. He is hitting .357 with three home runs after signing a minor league contract early in spring training on the heels of a dreadful 2015 in which he batted just .174 with five home runs in 93 games for the Los Angeles Angels.
“I knew there was something left in the tank but I also knew I needed to put in hard work to find it,” Joyce said.
The Reds scored their run on Tucker Barnhart’s RBI double with two outs in the ninth. Mark Melancon relieved Arquimedes Caminero and got Scott Schebler to hit a game-ending fly out for his sixth save.
Starling Marte and Jordy Mercer had two hits each for the Pirates.
Dan Straily (0-1) worked six innings in the longest of three outings since the Reds moved him from the bullpen into the rotation. He gave up two runs and five hits while striking out five and walking three.
“He was good,” Reds manager Bryan Price said. “Good tempo, did some really good things with his breaking ball.”
Joey Votto had two hits for the Reds, who have gone 4-13 since taking two of three against the Pirates during the first week of the season from April 8-10, at Cincinnati.
Reds: 2B Brandon Phillips returned to the lineup and went 0 for 4 following a two-game absence that stemmed from sustaining both a bruised left shin and bruised left ring finger in the same at-bat Monday night against the Mets at New York. … RHP Anthony DeSclafani (strained oblique) made his second and possibly last rehab start Friday night, pitching five scoreless innings for low Class A Dayton while allowing three hits with three strikeouts and one walk. … RHP Jon Moscot (sore left shoulder), who felt pain in his non-throwing arm in his previous outing Wednesday against the Mets, is on course to start Tuesday against San Francisco.
Pirates: RHP Jared Hughes (strained left lat muscle) rejoined the team Friday and could be activated from the 15-day DL Saturday. He pitched four times on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Indianapolis and allowed five runs and seven hits in six innings with five strikeouts and two walks.
Reds RF Jay Bruce returned to the team after missing three games while on the paternity list. His wife Hannah gave birth to the couple’s first child Monday, a son named Carter John.
Bruce doubled in his first at-bat in the first inning and finished 1 for 4.
The Pirates gave their coaches new contracts through the 2017 season. Pitching coach Ray Searage, who replaced Joe Kerrigan during the 2010 season, is the senior member of the staff that also includes hitting coach Jeff Branson, first base coach Nick Leyva, third base coach Rick Sofield, assistant hitting coach Jeff Livesey, bullpen coach Euclides Rojas and catching coach Brad Fischer, as well as bullpen catcher Heberto Andrade.
Reds: RHP Alfredo Simon (0-2, 16.31) starts Saturday night in the second game of the series. He gave up eight runs in 2 2/3 innings to the Chicago Cubs in taking the loss in his previous outing Sunday.
Pirates: LHP Francisco Liriano (1-1, 4.64) is 0-1 with a 6.46 ERA in three starts since pitching six scoreless innings to beat St. Louis on opening day. He is 1-5 against the Reds in 13 regular-season starts but beat them in the 2013 NL wild card game.