By Joe Kay
AP Sports Writer
CINCINNATI — Manager Clint Hurdle likes the Pirates’ lineup so much that he doesn’t want to break it up.
He chose to start David Freese at first base for the first time this season and bat him leadoff — John Jaso’s spot — for a game against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night. The game was postponed after a 55-minute wait because of steady rain, so the Pirates didn’t get to see how it would work out.
Hurdle’s decision was a reflection of his faith in his everyday batting order. He wanted to start Freese at first and instead of moving everyone else in the order around, he just plopped Freese in Jaso’s spot at the top of the order.
“Right now, I just like where everybody is,” Hurdle said.
The game wasn’t immediately rescheduled. Both teams decided to bump their rotations back a day for the final game of the series, staying with their original starters for Tuesday. Juan Nicasio (3-3) will face Alfredo Simon (1-3).
The lineup hasn’t been a problem during Pittsburgh’s recent slide — six losses in eight games, including a 3-2 defeat in the series opener on Monday night. Pittsburgh’s starting outfield of Andrew McCutchen, Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco has batted a combined .360 during the past four games.
Heading into Tuesday’s games, Pittsburgh’s outfielders ranked first in the majors in batting average (.298) and third in slugging percentage (.492). Overall, the Pirates were tied for the NL lead with a .280 team average.
The pitching has been more of the problem. Pittsburgh ranks ninth in the NL with a 4.23 staff ERA. The starters rank seventh at 4.16, but the bullpen is 10th at 4.33.
It was the second rain delay at Great American Ball Park this season and the 13th postponement in the history of the ballpark, which opened in 2003.
McCutchen has a five-game hitting streak. … Eight of Jung Ho Kang’s past nine hits against the Reds have gone for extra bases — five doubles and three homers, including a grand slam. … Marte has four straight multi-hit games. He’s gotten at least two hits in five of his seven games against Cincinnati this season.
NO BRUISES FOR ONE DAY
The rainout amounted to a respite from the teams’ ongoing hit-by-pitch history. In the past four seasons, the Reds have hit 39 Pirates batters — six this season — while the Pirates also have hit 39 Reds batters, including three this season. It’s the most in the majors for two teams over that span. Joey Votto was plunked by Jonathon Niese in the series opener.
Pirates: Hurdle said Jaso was healthy, but was just going to get a day off.
Reds: C Devin Mesoraco had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. His rehab is expected to take six months. … RHP Anthony DeSclafani played catch without a problem and will throw in the bullpen in the next few days. He’s been sidelined by a strained oblique sustained during spring training.
Pirates: In his previous start against the Reds on April 29, Nicasio allowed three hits in seven scoreless innings and struck out a season-high eight batters for a 4-1 win.
Reds: Simon went a season-high 7 2/3 innings and gave up three runs in a 9-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday. He became the second Reds starter to go seven innings this season. He’ll start in place of Tim Adelman, who has made only two career starts.