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Slumping Pirates lose 5-3 to Reds

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CINCINNATI — A ground ball that deflects off the shortstop's glove for a double. A wild pitch that lets in one run, followed by an error that sends home another.

Just another bad night in a long run of them for the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Mike Leake pitched seven innings, had a pair of hits and scored on a dash home off a wild pitch Tuesday, leading the Cincinnati Reds to a 5-3 victory that shoved the Pirates another game further out of contention and another loss closer to that dreaded .500 mark.

The Pirates have lost five in a row and 22 out of 31, falling out of contention in the NL Central. They trail the Reds by a season-high 13 games.

The deep slump also has left them at risk of extending their unmatched streak of futility. The Pirates haven't had a winning record for the last 19 seasons, a record for a North American pro team. The loss on Tuesday dropped them to 72-69.

"We've had some opportunities," said Kevin Correia (10-9). "We're getting close. But we've got to just keep fighting. We're not on a good run right now, but it can very easily turn around with one game. I think everybody knows that."

Both teams were recovering from their 5-hour, 22-minute game on Monday night, won by the Reds 4-3 in 14 innings. This one came down to one sloppy inning.

Leake (8-9) gave up nine hits, including Alex Presley's solo homer and pinch-hitter Gaby Sanchez's two-run shot. Leake singled and eventually scored during a decisive three-run second inning aided by an error.

Brandon Phillips hit Correia's first pitch of the game for a homer and doubled home another run. Scott Rolen added a solo shot.

The NL Central leaders will get by the next few days without closer Aroldis Chapman, who has a tired pitching shoulder. He walked three of the five batters he faced on Monday night, when his velocity was down from 100 mph to the mid-90s.

Jonathan Broxton, acquired from Kansas City at the trade deadline, assumes the role. He pitched the ninth, allowing a hit, for his first save in three tries with the Reds. He had 23 saves with the Royals.

"This is an ongoing challenge for us," manager Clint Hurdle said of Pittsburgh's struggle on offense. "We're trying to find that good balance, but we haven't had it lately."

Before the game, Phillips talked to Pirates reliever Jared Hughes to ease hard feelings. Hughes hit Phillips with a pitch on Monday night, and Phillips got the ball and flipped it at the mound. Phillips thought he heard the reliever make a derogatory comment.

On Tuesday, Phillips said they talked and cleared up "a big misunderstanding."

Rolen was back after being out of the starting lineup the last five games with a sore back. He hit his seventh homer of the season in the eighth inning, his first since Aug. 15.

With the score tied at 1, Leake helped himself in the second after Dioner Navarro drew a walk. Leake failed to get down a bunt on the first two pitches, then swung away and singled.

"They've got a pretty good hitting pitcher there," Correia said. "That's a situation where if I make a better 0-2 pitch to him, they don't get three runs there."

Phillips then doubled off the glove of shortstop Clint Barmes, the ball deflecting away far enough for him to take the extra base. Navarro scored and Leake went to third.

When Correia's pitch bounced away from catcher Michael McKenry, Leake dashed home and scored with a hard, feet-first slide. Phillips followed him home when McKenry retrieved the ball and threw wildly to the plate.

"With Leake on third, he's probably one of the best runners for a pitcher," Correia said. "Nobody else, I don't think, would have gone on that. He's just got the speed to do it."

That wasn't the end of the Pirates' self-destruction.

With Barmes on second base in the fifth inning, Correia tried to sacrifice but popped up his bunt for an easy out. Rookie Brock Holt then singled to right and rounded the base too far — first baseman Joey Votto cut off the throw and flipped to Phillips covering the base to get Holt.

"That play can happen at any level of baseball," Hurdle said. "It's an awareness play that I think we could have handled better. That probably won't happen to him again."

NOTES: Reds SS Zack Cozart was out of the lineup for a seventh straight game with a strained oblique. ... It was Phillips' fourth career leadoff homer and the fifth by the Reds this season. ... Holt extended his hitting streak to seven games. ... Leake has four multihit games this season and nine for his career. He has 43 hits over the last three seasons, the most by any pitcher in the majors.