(SportsNetwork.com) - The struggling Pittsburgh Pirates will try to earn a split of their four-game series with the Cincinnati Reds as the two clubs battle in the finale on Thursday afternoon.
The Pirates have dropped back-to-back games after winning Monday's opener and have gone 3-10 over their past 13 games. That has dropped the club four games under .500 on the season.
Pittsburgh could not take advantage of some early control problems by Cincinnati hurler Alfredo Simon, who posted his fourth straight quality start in leading the Reds to a 5-2 win last night.
Simon held the Pirates to two runs despite allowing four hits and five walks over 6 2/3 innings.
"I feel comfortable right now," Simon said. "I'm getting to know the hitters (in the National League)."
Jay Bruce and Billy Hamilton each had two hits, an RBI and a run scored for the Reds, who have won six of their last eight overall and four of six against the Pirates this season.
Pittsburgh brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth, but after Zack Cozart made an over-the-shoulder catch in short center for the second out, Jonathan Broxton got Andrew McCutchen on a groundout to secure his third save.
McCutchen hit a solo home run for the third time in as many days, but his recent surge has not been enough to get the Pirates rolling. The reigning NL MVP is batting .375 with four homers and 10 RBI in his last 12 games.
Charlie Morton remained winless on the young season after yielding four runs -- three earned -- on four hits and five walks over six frames.
"He had some command problems," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of his starter.
With Wandy Rodriguez having landed on the disabled list due to a knee injury, Hurdle will turn to the 25-year-old Brandon Cumpton for today's finale.
Cumpton, ranked Pittsburgh's 12th-best prospect by MLB.com, will make his season debut after a solid spring in which he was 1-0 with a 2.21 earned run average through 20 1/3 innings. The righty followed that up by going 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Cumpton pitched in the majors for the first time last season, going 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA in six games, all but one of those starts.
Despite his limited experience in the majors, Cumpton did face the Reds three times a season ago, with two starts, and went 1-0 with a 0.69 ERA after yielding one earned run over 13 frames while striking out nine.
The Reds counter with left-hander Tony Cingrani, who is coming off a loss to the Chicago Cubs on Saturday.
Cingrani allowed three runs on four hits and four walks over five innings, falling to 1-2 on the season with a 3.22 ERA.
"They laid off some tough pitches," said Reds manager Bryan Price. "He just wasn't the same guy we've seen here most of the time in Cincinnati, just kind of sporadic with his location."
The 24-year-old Cingrani will face the Pirates for the first time as a starter, having previously made three relief appearances against them.