(SportsNetwork.com) - Winless over his past three starts, A.J. Burnett takes the mound on Thursday night for the Pittsburgh Pirates in the rubber match of a three-game set with the Cincinnati Reds.
Burnett has not been bad over his current 0-2 rut, giving up just one run in a 2-0 loss to Milwaukee on June 8 and then logging nine scoreless innings of a no-decisions versus Philadelphia on June 14.
The righty struggled to keep runners off the bases last Friday versus Washington, allowing a career-high 14 hits over 6 2/3 innings. Burnett did minimize the damage to four runs -- three earned -- and struck out seven, but lost a 4-1 decision.
"They had a good approach, came out and swung early," Burnett said. "They had a lot of first-, second-pitch hits."
Burnett fell to 6-3 on the year with a 2.05 earned run average and is 8-6 lifetime versus the Reds with a 3.62 ERA in 18 meetings.
The Reds turn tonight to Anthony DeSclafani for this finale and the 25-year- old is coming off a loss to Miami on Saturday.
DeSclafani was charged with three runs on four hits and three walks over five innings, giving the hurler his shortest start since lasting just three frames on May 17. He fanned three and dropped to 5-5 on the year with a 3.48 ERA.
"I think he made some pitches he'd like to have back, and they took advantage of them," said Reds manager Bryan Price.
The righty will be making his third career start against the Pirates and is 0-1 against them with a 4.09 ERA.
The Reds evened this series with last night's 5-2 win, getting to red-hot Pirates starter Gerrit Cole for four runs in the first inning.
Marlon Byrd hit a two-run homer in the opening frame and drove in three runs on the night, while Todd Frazier and Jay Bruce also had RBI hits in the first inning.
"It was big to get on him early because once he starts cruising he just doesn't let up," said Byrd about Cole. "We needed to get runs early and we did tonight."
Mike Leake won his third straight decision after giving up two runs on eight hits with five strikeouts over seven innings. His effort helped the Reds to their fifth victory in seven games.
Cincinnati was without second baseman Brandon Phillips, who was out of the lineup due to a thumb injury sustained on Tuesday.
Cole had a six-start winning streak snapped as he was tagged for five runs on eight hits over 4 2/3 innings.
"The misses were east and west," said Cole. "I was trying to elevate up in the zone, but when it starts high and stays high, that's an easy one for those guys to get a hold of."
Pedro Alvarez and Chris Stewart each drove in runs for the Pirates, who have lost four of their last five.
The Reds lead the season series, 6-2.