The Reds struck early in the bottom of the first and went up 1-0 off of a homerun by Chris Heisey. Pirates starter Francisco Liriano labored, but the score remained the same until the bottom of the fifth inning when Pedro Alvarez just missed a ground ball and allowed Mike Leake to cross home plate and put the Reds up 2-0.
Liriano loaded the bases in the bottom of the fifth before being taken out and replaced by Justin Wilson. Brandon Phillips cleared the bases on a double and put Cincinnati in a commanding lead, 5-0.
Starling Marte got the Pirates on the board in the top of the sixth with a homerun to make the score 5-1. Moments later, Andrew McCutchen homered to pull the Pirates to 5-2. Russell Martin joined the homerun parade in the same inning to pull the Bucs within two, 5-3.
The Reds threatened in the bottom of the seventh but right fielder Travis Snider gunned Joey Votto down at the plate to keep the game at 5-3.
Marte got on base with two outs in the ninth, but Aroldis Chapman shut the Bucs down to take game one of the three-game set.
A.J. Burnett (4-6, 3.06 ERA) faces Mat Latos (8-3, 3.53 ERA) Saturday afternoon at 4:05.