Don't look now, but the Cincinnati Reds apparently have figured out how to win.
You still have to look down the major league standings -- all the way to the bottom -- to find them, but with a 4-0 win Thursday against the Pirates in the opener of a four-game series in Pittsburgh, the Reds have wonfive of their past seven.
That's quite a feat considering Cincinnati had just three wins overall a week ago, through 25 games.
The Reds are off to the right start if they hope to win their third straight series. They took two of three from the visiting Pirates last weekend and two of three from the Milwaukee Brewers earlier this week.
Before that, Cincinnati was 0-7-1 in its first eight series.
The turnaround might be all the more impressive considering the Reds have several players out injured or ill, including infielders Jonathan India and Joey Votto, outfielder Nick Senzel, starter Mike Minor and, most recently, reliever Lucas Sims.
"It's just continuing to take it day by day," Reds catcher Tyler Stephenson, who was 3-for-4 with a solo homer and an RBI single on Thursday, told Bally Sports Cincinnati. "I know health is a big thing. Pieces are starting to fall into our favor, some big at-bats and stuff."
Stephenson is 14-for-33 (.424) with 13 RBIs in 10 games since coming off the injured list.
"He's just showing what a great approach at the plate can do for you," Reds manager David Bell said of Stephenson. "He has it all covered right now."
As the weekend plays out, Cincinnati can also work on an unsightly road mark. The win Thursday ended a 13-game road losing streak, the franchise's longest since a 19-game skid away from home July 5-Aug. 24, 1933.
The Pirates, meanwhile, failed to continue any momentum they might have gathered in winning two of three against the mighty Los Angeles Dodgers between the two series against the Reds.
Pittsburgh managed just four hits on Thursday, all singles that were spread through the game.
"We have to do better with our approach," Pirates manager Derek Shelton said. "We've got to figure out a way to get better at-bats."
Pittsburgh was 23-10 at home against Cincinnati the previous four seasons.
Confidence against the Reds might not be dented.
"We're right there," said Pittsburgh's JT Brubaker, who started and took the loss on Thursday. "We're in a good spot. High energy. We're going to come ready to play (Friday)."
Cincinnati right-hander Tyler Mahle (1-4, 6.46 ERA) is scheduled to face Pittsburgh right-hander Mitch Keller (0-4, 6.11) in the Friday game.
Mahle didn't get a decision Saturday in a home game against Pittsburgh as the Reds scored a comeback win, but he was fairly sharp over five innings. The only hit he allowed was Michael Perez's two-run homer in the second, and he struck out six.
In 12 career starts against the Pirates, Mahle is 4-4 with a 3.92 ERA.
Keller, coming off a no-decision Saturday in the second game of a doubleheader at Cincinnati, is seeking his first major league win since last Sept. 21.
Overall against Cincinnati, Keller is 1-3 with a 7.09 ERA in nine career starts.
--Field Level Media