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Pirates struggle to score once again, fall to Reds 2-1 for 6th loss in 7 games

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PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Pirates are five games under .500 less than a month into the season but they insist there is no reason to panic.

Ryan Ludwick lined a two-run double after two Cincinnati batters were hit by pitches, lifting Tony Cingrani and the Reds over the Pirates 2-1 on Thursday.

The Pirates have lost six of seven, scoring a total of 22 runs in that span. The skid has dropped Pittsburgh to 9-14, a year after they had both their first winning season and playoff appearance since 1992.

"We can't worry about where we are right now," Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. "We know we're going to be better. We're going to learn as a team and keep pushing forward."

"It's having a trust in one another, having each other's backs. We've just to keep working on things," he said.

Ludwick's double in the sixth drove in Joey Votto and Todd Frazier and put the Reds ahead 2-1. Both of them were plunked by rookie Brandon Cumpton (0-1), promoted from Triple-A earlier in the day.

"It was great because we were starting to get a little irritated because we had three hit batters in the game and a couple of our guys got squared up pretty good," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "I don't think there was any intent to it, but the fact his two-run double followed the third hit by pitch had a little bit more sweetness to it for sure."

Cumpton gave up just two runs in seven innings while taking the rotation spot of lefty Wandy Rodriguez, put on the disabled list Monday with inflammation in his left knee.

Cumpton held the Reds to four hits while walking one and striking out five, but also hit three batters. He had a string of 20 consecutive scoreless innings in the major leagues, dating to last season, until Ludwick snapped it.

PHOTO: Pittsburgh Pirates' Neil Walker (18) scores ahead of the tag by Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco during the first inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh Thursday, April 24, 2014. Walker scored from third on a single by Pirates Pedro Alvarez. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Pittsburgh Pirates' Neil Walker (18) scores ahead of the tag by Cincinnati Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco during the first inning of a baseball game in Pittsburgh Thursday, April 24, 2014. Walker scored from third on a single by Pirates Pedro Alvarez. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

"I was feeling good, trying to attack guys and be aggressive," Cumpton said. "Unfortunately, I let a couple of pitches get away."

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, though, didn't pin the blame for the loss on Cumpton.

"I thought his start was a strong one and he pitched inside with conviction," Hurdle said. "He dinged a few guys but that's part of pitching inside. You can't have it both ways. You're going to hit some guys."

The Reds won for the seventh time in nine games and got their record to .500 at 11-11 after starting the season 3-8.

Cingrani (2-2) allowed one run and six hits in six innings. He struck out seven and walked two.

Logan Ondrusek, Sam LeCure and Jonathan Broxton pitched one scoreless inning each in relief of Cingrani. Broxton recorded his fourth save.

Ludwick had two of the Reds' five hits. Neil Walker got two of Pittsburgh's seven hits.

The Pirates scored in the first inning when Pedro Alvarez singled in Walker, who had drawn a walk. Pittsburgh left eight runners on base.

"Certainly a great series here," Price said. "We had to battle — they pitched us tough, as they always do. They've got a good squad, and some way we found a way to grind out three victories here. I'm really proud of the boys."

NOTES: Pittsburgh C Russell Martin did not start for a second straight game with what Hurdle said after the game was "lower body soreness." . Reds CF Billy Hamilton was caught stealing as a pinch runner. He didn't start, and Price said he wants to give the rookie leadoff hitter some regular mental breaks throughout the season. ... The Pirates begin a three-game series Friday at St. Louis against the Cardinals with RHP Gerrit Cole (2-1, 3.67) matching up against RHP Shelby Miller (1-2, 3.57). . Cincinnati opens a three-game series Friday night against the Braves at Atlanta with RHP Homer Bailey 1-1, 5.75) facing RHP Ervin Santana (2-0, 0.86).

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