PITTSBURGH — Marlon Byrd spent April swinging and missing, then swinging and missing some more.
"It's the toughest time since I turned things back around two years ago," Byrd said. "I've been putting in a lot of time in with (hitting coach) Don Long and things are slowly starting to come around."
Kind of looks like it.
The veteran outfielder homered and drove in four runs and rookie Michael Lorenzen worked six-plus innings to pick up his first major league win as the Reds drilled the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-1 on Tuesday night.
Byrd batted just .163 during the first month of the season, his 25 strikeouts nearly doubling his 13 total hits. Facing a club he helped lead to a playoff berth as a late-season addition in 2013, Byrd drilled a two-run shot off Jeff Locke (2-2) in the third, then ripped a two-run double in the ninth to provide insurance and then some.
"The home run was exciting and the double in the ninth inning was especially exciting because it's a lot easier to manage a game with a six-run lead than a one-run lead or being down a run," Reds manager Bryan Price said.
Todd Frazier belted his National League-leading ninth home run for Cincinnati as the Reds improved to 4-0 against the Pirates this season.
Lorenzen wasn't spectacular but steady. The 23-year-old righty kept the struggling Pirates off balance, giving up one run and three hits, walking three and striking out four. His only hiccup came on a solo homer by Pittsburgh's Starling Marte in the third.
"I kind of collected myself and thought about what a young pitcher who had given up four home runs in his first two starts should do," Lorenzen said. "I thought the answer was pound the strike zone, so that's what I tried to do."
The Pirates have lost four straight and six of seven. Locke (2-2) struggled early before settling down — and received little help. The Pirates have scored five runs and left 46 runners on base during their four-game slide.
"I don't think there's cause for concern or anybody stressing out or anything," Locke said. "It's still early. ... There's no sense of urgency or anything like that. It's a long season."
The Reds swept the Pirates during a season-opening series in Cincinnati, but have cooled off. Pittsburgh righted itself temporarily at the start of a nine-game road trip last week but dropped two of three to the Chicago Cubs before three walkoff losses in St. Louis.
The Pirates hoped a return home would provide some relief. Pittsburgh came in 10-1 in the last 11 games started by Locke at PNC Park, but the Reds wasted little time putting the Pirates in an early hole.
Frazier led off the second with a shot to the seats in right-center, extending an odd streak in which each of his last five hits were home runs.
Marte cut the lead in half in the bottom of second with a liner over the fence in right field for his seventh home run. The boost didn't last. Two batters into the third, Byrd sent a fastball by Locke over the notch in left-center to make it 4-1.
Locke managed to grind out seven innings, giving up four runs and seven hits with two walks and five strikeouts but his ERA rose to 4.85, easily the worst on Pittsburgh's starting staff.
Pittsburgh star center fielder Andrew McCutchen went 0 for 4 and is now hitting just .185. The 2013 NL MVP is dealing with a left knee injury, but refused to use it as an excuse for his problems.
"Right now, it's under mediocre right now," McCutchen said. "It's bad and I know I'm better than that."
Reds: SS Zack Cozart was given the day off to give his bruised right index finger a little more time to heal. Price said Cozart was available if necessary. Cozart hurt the finger while fielding a groundball from Atlanta pitcher Julio Teheran in the fourth inning Sunday.
Pirates: RHP Charlie Morton threw a bullpen session Tuesday and is scheduled to make a rehab start at Double-A Altoona on Friday. Morton is recovering from hip surgery. ... Pittsburgh gave struggling 3B Josh Harrison a scheduled day off. The leadoff hitter is batting just .188 this season.
Gerrit Cole, the National League Pitcher of the Month of April, makes his sixth start of the season Wednesday for Pittsburgh. Cole (4-0, 1.76 ERA) became the first Pirate to be named Pitcher of the Month since Randy Tomlin in June, 1992. The 24-year-old is 8-0 with a 2.40 ERA in his last 10 starts. Cincinnati counters with Mike Leake (1-1, 3.03). Leake is 4-0 with a 2.95 ERA in his last nine starts against Pittsburgh.
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