Poor control and the inability to hold runners made for a bad combination for Charlie Morton.
The Pirates' right-hander remained winless in five starts this season as he walked five batters in six innings and allowed the Reds to steal four bases in Cincinnati's 5-2 win over Pittsburgh on Wednesday night.
Morton said the Reds' aggressiveness did not distract him and pointed to the bases on balls as his downfall, saying he missed his target by as much as three feet on some pitches.
"When you know that a team is aggressive, obviously you're cognizant of the fact they're going to run, but I try not to let those things affect me in the sense of making pitches," Morton said. "I've got to get the guy out at home plate first."
Morton (0-3) gave up four runs — three earned — and four hits with four strikeouts.
"I was yanking my fastball all night," he said. "There were times where I was trying to go inside on left-handed hitters and missing in the right-handed batter's box. I was literally missing by three feet."
Alfredo Simon pitched into the seventh inning despite erratic control early and Jay Bruce drove in a run to help the Reds send the Pirates to their ninth loss in 12 games.
Bruce had two hits and knocked in the final run of the decisive three-run fifth inning against Morton that gave the Reds a 4-2 lead. Billy Hamilton also had two hits for Cincinnati, which has won seven of 10 games since a 3-7 start.
"We took advantage of what we could because this is team that might not give you a lot most nights," Bruce said. "We tried to put some pressure on the defense."
Simon got off to a rough start and walked three consecutive batters in the first inning, including Travis Snider with the bases loaded to force home the game's first run.
"It was cold and I was having a hard time feeling the ball," said Simon, pitching on a blustery night when the game-time temperature was 50 degrees. "After that first inning, I felt a lot better and pitched like I've been pitching."
Simon (3-1) settled down and worked 6 2-3 innings, allowing two runs on four hits and five walks while striking out four. Simon has pitched at least six innings in each of his four starts this season as a replacement for the injured Mat Latos and has a 1.30 ERA. Simon pitched exclusively in relief the previous two years.
Jonathan Broxton pitched a scoreless ninth inning, despite allowing two hits, for his third save.
Andrew McCutchen had two hits and homered for the third consecutive night for the Pirates. He has four home runs this season.
"I'm starting to string some good at-bats together," McCutchen said. "It was a bit of a struggle early but I'm starting to feel pretty good now."
NOTES: Pittsburgh C Russell Martin was a late scratch because of a miscommunication. Martin, who is 0 for 7 against Simon, thought he was getting Wednesday off while manager Clint Hurdle thought he and Martin had decided Thursday would be an off day. Chris Stewart started behind the plate and made two throwing errors. ... Pittsburgh 1B Travis Ishikawa cleared waivers and elected free agency after declining an outright assignment to Triple-A Indianapolis. He was designated for assignment last Friday. ... The Pirates will recall RHP Brandon Cumpton from Indianapolis to start Thursday against LHP Tony Cingrani (1-2, 3.22) in the finale of the four-game series. ... Reds LHP Aroldis Chapman threw early batting practice, the first time he had faced hitters since suffering fractures of his eye and nose along with a mild concussion March 19 when hit by a line drive in a spring training game.