PITTSBURGH -- The numbers don't seem to mesh. The Pittsburgh Pirates have been outscored 75-53, yet they are 7-5 -- a rare winning record for a club that hasn't finished a season above .500 since 1992.
The secret: They're losing the one-sided games, with each of their five losses coming by at least six runs, but they're 5-0 in games decided by two runs or fewer.Paul Maholm pitched four-hit ball into the seventh inning, Jason Jaramillo had a three-run double and the Pirates completed a three-game sweep of close games by beating the slumping Cincinnati Reds 5-3 on Sunday."That kind of run differential tells us we shouldn't have won a game," Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. "It's been an odd year. Typically, the more runs you score, the fewer runs you give up, the more games you win. But it doesn't always hold true. ... When our pitchers are giving us a chance to win, we've won."Jay Bruce hit his first two homers of the season, solo shots in the fifth off Maholm and the ninth off Octavio Dotel, but the Reds lost their fifth in a row. They won 13 of 18 from the Pirates last season, only to be swept for the first time since April 11-13, 2008, in Pittsburgh.The Pirates won one-run games in their final at-bat by 4-3 on Friday and 5-4 on Saturday."The games could have easily gone either way, especially today," Bruce said. "We hit some balls right at people and didn't really catch the breaks when we needed to. I think it just needs to come around, but at the end of the day it's still a sweep."While losing 99 games last season, the Pirates swept only three series, each lasting three games."We could have easily been happy with the series win, but the guys came out and played hard and wanted to sweep," Maholm said. "You could tell that."Maholm (1-1), supported by some strong defense, struck out five and walked one after permitting seven runs in 11-plus innings against the Dodgers and Giants.Among the standout plays were shortstop Ronny Cedeno going deep into the hole to throw out Johnny Gomes and left fielder Milledge making a diving catch."They made some outstanding defensive plays out there that saved Maholm," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.Reds right-hander Bronson Arroyo (0-1) ran into problems in the fourth inning for the second straight start, and wound up with his first loss to the Pirates in his last six starts against them. He was perfect over the first three innings, only to allow six of the first seven batters to reach during a five-run inning that put Pittsburgh up 5-0.Delwyn Young, Lastings Milledge and Ryan Church singled around Garrett Jones' walk, and Bobby Crosby was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Jaramillo, the backup catcher and one of four bench players in the lineup, followed by driving in his first three runs of the season with a double to left."They're good players, and we still feel we have good players in the lineup when they're in there," manager John Russell said. "It showed again."On Tuesday, four of the five runs Arroyo allowed against Florida came in the fourth. The Reds came back to win that game 10-8 but haven't won since, scoring only 15 runs during the five consecutive losses. Arroyo gave up one run in 15 innings while beating the Pirates twice last season and had an 0.86 ERA in his last three starts against them.Dotel got his third save in four opportunities despite allowing Bruce's second homer. Brendan Donnelly pitched a scoreless eighth and Joel Hanrahan got the final out in the seventh.The game started three minutes past the scheduled 1:35 p.m. EDT start because crew chief Joe West's crew was late arriving on the field. West recently complained about the slow pace of games involving the Red Sox and Yankees.
Maholm is 4-1 in his last seven starts against the Reds in Pittsburgh. ... Pirates 3B Andy LaRoche (back) hasn't played since the second inning Friday. ... Reds 3B Scott Rolen tested his sore back during batting practice, but remained out of the lineup. ... Jones hasn't homered since hitting three in his first five at-bats. ... Pittsburgh started 11-9 last season, but never was two games over .500 again. ... The Pirates are 5-1 at home. They have had only one winning record at home (43-38, 2006) since PNC Park opened in 2001. They hadn't won their first two home series since 1992.