The Reds are 10-0-1 this season in series against National League Central opponents not named the Cardinals, against whom they are 0-3.
Cincinnati is looking to extend that streak after a 6-5 comeback victory over the Pirates on Friday in the first game of this three-game series leading up to the All-Star break.
"It's a big series," said Reds shortstop Zack Cozart. "We want to finish strong going into the All-Star break. We've been playing so well and, a tough loss [Thursday against the Cubs in 12 innings], but we've clawed our way back into the thick of things, and that's what we wanted to do."
Reds starter Mike Leake owns a career record of 6-3 with a 3.40 ERA in 17 starts against the Pirates. He is 1-0 this season against Pittsburgh and has allowed seven earned runs in 13 2/3 innings.
Pirates starter Charlie Morton had been throwing more curveballs than his usual sinker until his last outing against the Cardinals on Monday, when he used primarily sinkers to blank the Cards over seven innings.
"The first 10-15 pitches that come out of their hand mean a lot to them [starting pitchers]," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "When the sinker came out hot, it was a much better feel pitch for him. It had really good late life and movement, and he was able to count on it throughout the outing."
Whatever Morton has been doing lately has worked. He has won four of his last six decisions and owns a 3.10 ERA on the year.
Pirates: Harrison comes home as an All-Star
Playing in the NL Central means outfielder Josh Harrison makes frequent trips to his hometown of Cincinnati, but this one is a little more special. This time, Harrison returns as an All-Star.
"It's always nice to come back home," Harrison said. "But now, it's been amazing. I've had to clear my phone several times since last night, so many people were calling and texting me.
"Everybody's leaving the message, 'Hey, I'm coming to the game to see you. Look for me in the stands.'"
Reds: Bailey expects to make his next start
Homer Bailey said before Friday's series opener against the Pirates that his slightly strained right knee felt better, and that he is optimistic about making his next start after the All-Star break.
The knee forced Bailey to exit Thursday's game against the Cubs in the sixth inning.
"It's still pretty sore, it's not like I can go and run a marathon or anything," Bailey said. "Stuff like that happens and kind of puts a big scare into you with the amount of pain that was there, but a little bit of rest, a little bit of R &R is going to go a long way."
• Pirates outfielder Starling Marte became eligible to return following Friday's game -- the third he has missed, the minimum, on the bereavement list -- but the club hadn't yet connected with him, and he is unlikely to be back from the Dominican until after the All-Star break.
• Reds closer Aroldis Chapman broke Bruce Sutter's Major League record of most consecutive relief appearances with a strikeout since 1900, notching his 40th in a row in Friday's win.
• Jay Bruce and Todd Frazier have had success against Morton. Bruce is 8-for-24 (.333) with three doubles, a triple, two homers and six RBIs. Frazier is 5-for-12 (.417) with two doubles, a triple, a homer and three RBIs.
Jamal Collier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.