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Series Wrap-up, 4/16 - 4/18 vs. CIN

The Pirates earned their first series sweep since last August, using quality pitching and timely hitting to take a three-game set from the Reds 4-3, 5-4 and 5-3.

Zach Duke (Friday) and Paul Maholm (Sunday) combined to toss 13 2/3 innings of three-run ball, stymieing Cincinnati and keeping the Buccos in contention for a victory both days. Daniel McCutchen (Saturday) pitched a so-so four innings, but also kept the game manageable unlike in his previous start against Arizona. And, despite bullpen performances ranging from solid (Joel Hanrahan, Jack Taschner) to shaky (Octavio Dotel: 2.0 innings, 2 ER, a Win and a Save) to downright ugly (Javier Lopez and Brendan Donnelly both walking in runs to ignite a Cincy rally on Friday), the pitching staff allowed only 10 runs over 27 innings.

Both Friday and Saturday, the Pirates jumped out to quick leads before rallying for two-out, walk-off wins in the ninth innings. On Friday, Andrew McCutchen singled and stole second before scoring on a Lastings Milledge single to center. Then, trailing by one and down to the last out Saturday, Milledge walked home the tying run before Garrett Jones crushed a ball to the center field wall, easily scoring the final run. Sunday was a different story, as the Pirates scored in only one inning - a five-run fourth highlighted by a three-run double from Jason Jaramillo - but had their lead hold up for the rest of the contest.

The early results are encouraging for the Pirates, who were expected to finish near the bottom of the NL Central again but currently stand in second heading into tonight's Cardinals-Mets game. That they swept a divisional foe is even sweeter considering Pittsburgh's struggles (a 24-52 record) against the division last year.

The PBC now owns a 5-1 home mark and will need all the home field advantages possible as it starts a three-game set with nemesis Milwaukee on Tuesday - its last home series of April.