The Reds stormed out of Great American Ball Park having scored 27 runs in a weekend series victory over the Nationals. Their torrid hitting followed them to Busch Stadium, where they racked up 13 runs in a series-opening win against the Cardinals. Then their bats went cold.
Heading into Friday night's series opener against Pittsburgh at PNC Park, Cincinnati hasn't scored in 14 innings. The Reds have plated just one combined run in their past two games, both losses in St. Louis. If they're going to break that streak Friday, they'll have to get past Pirates right-hander A.J. Burnett to do so.
"It's early, but we consider them our rivals, and if we're going to do anything in this division, we've got to show up. We've got to take care of business," Burnett said. "They're a strong, good ballclub. It's going to be a good test. I just know we've got to go out and set the tone early, let them know this is our house."
Burnett has pitched well over his first two starts, striking out 19 batters while allowing four runs on 10 hits and five walks in 11 innings. He gave up just one run in his most recent outing, but he had the unfortune of squaring off against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. And he didn't get any support from a Pittsburgh lineup that's had trouble scoring runs this year.
"I don't worry about run support. That's beyond my control," Burnett said after that start. "That's when we get into trouble, when we start pointing fingers, start finding excuses. My job is to keep my team in the game -- till [manager Clint Hurdle] takes me out of the game -- no matter what the score is."
On the bright side, Burnett won't be facing Kershaw on Friday. Unfortunately, he's lining up against right-hander Mike Leake, who has a strong track record at PNC Park -- even if he has an 0-3 record to show for it. In six career starts in Pittsburgh since 2010, Leake owns a 2.68 ERA.
Leake struggled at times in his 2013 debut vs. the Nationals, giving up four runs on four walks and a pair of two-run homers. He also struck out four and hung around long enough to pitch a full six innings.
Leake, who assumed the fifth spot in the Reds rotation after they put Aroldis Chapman back in the bullpen, served up homers to Washington phenom Bryce Harper and catcher Wilson Ramos.
"Leake threw well, except for the two two-run homers -- especially the second one," Reds manager Dusty Baker said Saturday.
Reds: Marshall on the shelf
Cincinnati placed reliever Sean Marshall (left shoulder tendinitis) on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday and recalled right-hander Logan Ondrusek from Double-A Pensacola. Ondrusek entered Wednesday's game in the sixth inning and allowed a two-run homer by Matt Carpenter. The Reds had been trying to avoid placing Marshall on the disabled list, but he hadn't been available much of last week and wasn't able to pitch on consecutive days, Baker said.
"I felt like it was in the best interest of myself and the rest of the guys to take this DL stint, and really continue to strengthen my shoulder and get it back to 100 percent and pitch the rest of the year without any problems," Marshall said.
Pirates: Rodriguez unlikely to start this series
• Left-hander Wandy Rodriguez is "not likely" to take the mound against the Reds this weekend, according to the Pirates' medical staff. Rodriguez exited his start on Monday in the third inning due to left hamstring tightness, and an MRI on Tuesday revealed a left hamstring strain.
Rodriguez was tentatively scheduled to start Sunday's series finale at PNC Park.
• Pirates reliever Mark Melancon has put together five scoreless appearances and permitted just two baserunners in five innings entering this weekend's series. The 28-year-old right-hander recorded a 6.20 ERA for the Red Sox last season but credited the Pirates' coaching staff, including pitching coach Ray Searage and special assistant Jim Benedict, for getting him on the right track.
"I learned more about my delivery and about pitching in general in a month of Spring Training than I have my whole pro career," Melancon said.
• Friday's game kicks off a stretch of 20 straight contests for both the Reds and Pirates. May 2 is the next day off for either club.
• Reds left-handed pitching prospect Tony Cingrani was named International League Pitcher of the Week after tossing six no-hit innings in Triple-A Louisville's Opening Day victory over Toledo and another 6 1/3 scoreless innings against Columbus on Tuesday.
Cingrani struck out 21 batters over his first 12 1/3 innings, and Baker said the lefty would be his first callup if the Reds lose a starter to injury.