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Bucs starters continuing tossing zeroes as Musgrove downs Reds 2-0

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Musgrove breezed through seven shutout innings and Jung-ho Kang drilled a seventh inning RBI double as the Pirates downed the Reds 2-0 at PNC Park, drawing their season record even at 3-3.

Cincinnati failed to score for the third straight game, the last two at the hands of the Pirates, while the Pittsburgh pitching staff has posted three shutouts in the first six games of the season, all against the Reds.

The Pirates roughed up Sonny Gray last Sunday when he was lifted in the third inning after allowing five hits and four walks en route to a 5-0 victory, but tonight Gray was sharp, allowing only three hits and no walks while striking out seven, at one point retiring fourteen batters in a row.

Musgrove matched that effort as he allowed three hits and one walk along with eight punchouts, leaning on a biting slider while his fastball wasn’t quite what he wanted.

Just like Thursday night, the game was scoreless into the bottom of the seventh inning, when in each game the home team Pirates scored single runs in the seventh and eighth.

Starling Marte opened the home half of the seventh ripping the first pitch to left for a single. The second pitch to Francisco Cervelli skipped away for a wild pitch, sending Marte to second. Cervelli’s ground out to short put Marte at third and brought the infield in. Marte then broke home on contact as Josh Bell hit a chopper to second, but Marte pulled up in expectation of a rundown, missing an opportunity to get home when Jose Peraza’s throw pulled the catcher wide of the plate. With two outs and Bell on first, Kang laced the first pitch to the wall in the left field corner. With third base coach Alex Cora wildly waving Bell home, he slid across the plate without a throw to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead.

Keone Kela came in to pitch the eighth and was immediately bailed out by shortstop Erik Gonzalez, who was positioned behind second base for left-handed batter Tucker Barnhart and dove to his right to snag a one-hopper, jumped to his feet and threw a strike to first to get Barnhart by a step.

The Bucs played small ball for an insurance run in the eighth, as video replay showed that J.B. Shuck had beaten the throw to first from catcher Barnhart for a bunt single. Gonzalez then dropped down another bunt, where first baseman Joey Votto’s throw was wide to second and the relay was late to first, allowing all runners to be safe. After Melky Cabrera lined to center, former Pirates’ left-hander Zach Duke was called on to face the lefty swinging Adam Frazier, but Frazier foiled the strategy by dropping a fly down the left field line, out of the reach of the lumbering Matt Kemp, for an RBI double.

Felipe Vazquez proceeded to baffle the Reds batters with off-speed pitches in the top of the ninth, striking out Curt Casali and Joey Votto swinging before Yasiel Puig grounded to Kang for the final out of the game.

Over the last five games, Pirates’ starting pitchers have allowed just one run in 30 innings, dropping the team’s ERA to 2.25. On the season, they’ve only allowed a total of one run in the first six innings of any of the six games played so far.

Game three of the series will be played Saturday afternoon at 1:35 pm, with the Reds’ newly acquired Tanner Roark facing Trevor Williams, who shutout the Reds for six innings in his first start last Sunday.