PITTSBURGH (AP) — It looked like Alfredo Simon's bubble was about to burst.
After being one of the biggest surprises of the young season for the Cincinnati Reds by ably filling in for injured starting pitcher Mat Latos, Simon hit a rough patch in the first inning Wednesday night. He walked three batters in a row to force in a run.
Then, just like that, the right-hander went back to being dominant, pitching into the seventh inning despite the erratic early control, and Jay Bruce drove in a run for a fifth consecutive game as the Reds beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2.
"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) worked 6 2-3 innings and allowed 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.
"He's been terrific," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He's been an extremely versatile pitcher for us the last two-plus seasons. He's always been a talented guy, but he's really found himself and made himself into a very good-looking starting pitcher."
Bruce had two hits and knocked in the final run of the decisive three-run fifth inning against Charlie Morton (0-3) that gave the Reds a 4-2 lead. Billy Hamilton also had two hits for Cincinnati, which stole four bases while winning 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."
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, who lost for the 10th time in 13 games.