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NYM@PIT: McDonald fans eight over seven innings

The Pirates are riding a hot streak just in time for a big-time National League Central showdown this week with the first-place Reds.

Cincinnati heads to PNC Park in Pittsburgh for a three-game set with the Pirates, who have a shot at four consecutive wins for the first time since June 21-25 of last year and to reach .500 for the first time since they began this season 2-2. The first pitch for the Memorial Day matinee on Monday is scheduled for 1:35 p.m. ET.

In an odd scheduling coincidence, it will be the second consecutive series between these two teams that's been played in Pittsburgh's ballpark, as Cincinnati took two of three from May 4-6. Pittsburgh scored a total of only four runs in that series, which included a 3-2 win.

Cincinnati has won eight of its last nine, largely thanks to the team's offensive exploits. The club hit four homers on Sunday, and manager Dusty Baker is hoping outfielder Ryan Ludwick can soon join the party.

"It's been killing him," Baker said of Ludwick's power shortage, though the left fielder went yard on Saturday night. "It's going to come. I'm trying to play him enough to get his stroke together. [Chris] Heisey is starting to get hits, too."

Pirates right-hander James McDonald, who has been the club's most reliable starter this season, gets the ball in Monday's series opener. Among the reasons for his 2012 breakthrough is his development of a slider as a second go-to breaking pitch.

"It's the first time he's made a commitment to [the slider]," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's had days when it's been a wipeout slider and days when he hasn't had it, so it's back to the curve. It gives him two different breaking pitches that violate two different planes for hitters. [The slider] has become a weapon."

McDonald has struck out seven plus in six straight starts, equaling a club record set in 1965 by left-hander Bob Veale.

Reds: Votto hitting but not driving in runs
• Cincinnati slugger Joey Votto was 8-for-11 in the Reds' weekend series against the Rockies, but only drove in one run in the three-game set.

• Bronson Arroyo will toe the rubber for the Reds on Monday, making the 301st start of his career.

In his last start on Wednesday, Arroyo allowed just one earned run and four hits in 6 2/3 innings in a 2-1 win against the Braves. He left with the score tied at 1 before Todd Frazier won the game with a walk-off home run.

Pirates: Keeping it close
• The Pirates have played in a Major League-leading 22 one-run games this season, and 28 of their first 47 games have been decided by two runs or fewer.

• Pittsburgh recorded its first sweep of the season on Sunday against the Cubs, and its first at PNC Park since Sept. 17-19, 2010. The team had two sweeps last season.

• Andrew McCutchen has 55 hits from the third spot in the lineup, second only to Chicago's Starlin Castro (57) among NL hitters from that spot in the order.

Worth noting
• The Reds will try to keep the power surge going when they hit the road, after hitting 17 home runs at Great American Ball Park during their recent homestand.

• The two teams will play again next week (June 5-7) in Cincinnati.

• Pedro Alvarez's three-run homer in the first inning of Pittsburgh's 10-4 win on Sunday against the Cubs was the team's first long ball with more than one runner on base this season. Comments