CINCINNATI -- After 20 consecutive losing seasons, the Pittsburgh Pirates might be excused for being a little overeager. But in preparation for their first postseason appearance since 1992, the Pirates are taking things pitch by pitch, game by game.
"We've been able to stretch games out," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "We've got to have patience and discipline. It becomes contagious through the lineup. We need to tell ourselves that the pitcher's the one in trouble."
On Friday night, Pedro Alvarez hit a two-run home run and A.J. Burnett allowed just one run through eight innings, lifting Pittsburgh to a 4-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in the opener of an important three-game series at Great American Ball Park.
Pittsburgh (92-68) needs to win one of the final two games in the series to earn home-field advantage for Tuesday's National League Wild Card game against the Reds.
Todd Frazier hit a solo home run for Cincinnati (90-70), which has dropped three straight.
"I was just trying to get something started," said Frazier. "Once I got that, I thought we might get a spark going, but we couldn't find it."
The Pirates waited out Reds starter Homer Bailey, drawing four walks and pushing his pitch-count to 95 through five innings. And when the Bucs got pitches to hit, they didn't miss.
Marlon Byrd went 3-for-4 with a double and two RBIs, teaming with Alvarez to collect five of the Pirates' six hits.
"Just trying to simplify things," Byrd said. "You're talking about a guy (in Bailey) who has two no-hitters and is throwing 97 (mph). The game's hard enough. With runners in scoring position you try not to do too much. Just get the ball to the outfield."
Bailey (11-12) allowed four earned runs on five hits, and he lost to the Pirates for the fourth consecutive time since no-hitting them at PNC Park on Sept. 28 of last season.
"He usually gets stronger as the game goes on," said Reds manager Dusty Baker of Bailey. "He got a pitch out over the plate to Pedro (Alvarez), and he did what he's supposed to do with it. We've got to come back tomorrow. This team knows how to come back."
Four runs was more than enough support for Burnett (10-11), who allowed just one run on five hits. He walked one and struck six over 99 pitches.
"It gives us some momentum to watch a guy go out there and not only compete, but dominate a good lineup for eight innings," said Hurdle.
Byrd led off the sixth inning with a double high off the left-center field wall, narrowly missing a home run. Video replay confirmed it was not a homer.
No replay was required for Alvarez's two-run homer moments later, a 443-foot blast on a 1-2 pitch from Bailey that put the Pirates ahead 4-1.
"Pedro is growing into the role of a run-producer," said Hurdle. "When he squares the ball up, there's not a park that can hold him line to line."
Jason Grilli allowed one hit in the ninth and earned his 33rd save.
Bailey got ahead of Pirates hitters early in the game, but struggled to put them away.
In the third, Bailey hit Starling Marte and walked Andrew McCutchen after getting ahead 0-2. He then walked Justin Morneau to load the bases with one out. Byrd lined a single to left, driving in two runs and putting Pittsburgh ahead 2-0.
"I was all over the place," said Bailey. "Four walks, two hit batters. Terrible timing to have a bad game."
Marte's diving grab of Joey Votto's line drive ended the third, extending the Reds' scoreless streak to 16 innings.
"That's a fantastic play," Hurdle said. "He sold out for that ball."
Frazier ended the Reds' scoring drought with a line-drive home run off the left-field foul pole with two outs in the fourth, making the score 2-1. But that's the only run they would manage off Burnett.
"I just wanted to go out and execute my pitches," Burnett said. "They were hitting balls to guys. I just tried to stay focused and put up zeros."
NOTES: Pittsburgh now leads the season series with the Reds 9-8. ... Reds GM Walt Jocketty told the Cincinnati Enquirer on Friday the team hadn't decided whether to add rookie speedster Billy Hamilton to the postseason roster. "We haven't finalized that yet," Jocketty said. "We really haven't. We probably won't talk about that until Sunday or Monday." Hamilton is 13 of 14 on stolen base attempts since being promoted from Triple-A on Sept. 2. ... If nothing is at stake in Sunday's regular-season finale, Hurdle said he'll replace scheduled starter RHP Gerrit Cole and use him in Tuesday's National League Wild Card game as a fail-safe behind likely starter Francisco Liriano. ... Bailey's three strikeouts left him one strikeout shy of becoming the 11th pitcher in Reds franchise history dating to 1882 to record 200 strikeouts in a season. ... Reds LF Ryan Ludwick batted second for the first time since 2010 when he was a member of the St. Louis Cardinals.