Cincinnati Reds’ Jay Bruce rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run off Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Brandon Cumpton in the fourth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, June 20, 2013, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
Cincinnati Reds’ Jay Bruce rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run off Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Brandon Cumpton in the fourth inning of a baseball game, Thursday, June 20, 2013, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)
JOE KAY

AP Baseball Writer

CINCINNATI (AP) - Homer Bailey had everything working right the last time he faced the Pirates, putting him on track for a no-hitter. The only thing that was working in the rematch was his fastball, and it wasn't nearly enough.

Pedro Alvarez drove in all of Pittsburgh's runs with a solo homer, bases-loaded double and a single on Thursday for a 5-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds and a split of their high-profile NL Central series.

The Pirates remain a half-game behind second-place Cincinnati after the four-game set, keeping them virtually shoulder-to-shoulder as they chase the torrid St. Louis Cardinals.

After blowing a one-run lead in the ninth and losing 2-1 in 13 innings on Wednesday night, Pittsburgh salvaged a game behind Alvarez. The third baseman had an RBI single and his 16th homer off Bailey, who couldn't follow his no-hitter against Pittsburgh with a win.

"I was only pitching with a fastball," said Bailey, who left after six innings and 113 pitches with the score tied at 2. "They hit a lot of foul balls, and that drove up the pitch count. I was able to keep them at bay with just one pitch until the last couple of innings.

"I threw a real good pitch to Pedro Alvarez and he hit it out. It's tough. He had a great day."

Bailey faced the Pirates for the first time since his no-hitter at PNC Park last September. He's 8-2 career against Pittsburgh.

"They've definitely made strides over the past couple of years, but it's early," he said. "They have a good club but the past couple of years, they've fallen into the pattern of fading, so we'll see. It's a long season."

Both bullpens were tired after the long game on Wednesday night. Bailey stayed in long enough to give the Reds' bullpen a bit of a breather.

"Homer threw a lot of pitches early," manager Dusty Baker said. "We wanted him to go deeper, but he kept us in the ballgame. When he left, it was 2-2. You can't ask for much more than that."

After Alfredo Simon (5-3) loaded the bases in the seventh, Alvarez doubled off left-hander Tony Cingrani to snap the tie. The five RBIs were a season high for a Pirate and one shy of Alvarez's career high. The third baseman has been Pittsburgh's top run producer in June, leading the team with 48 RBIs overall.

Bryan Morris (4-2) contributed to the go-ahead rally with his first career single. He also pitched two innings, allowing one run. Left-hander Tony Watson pitched the last two innings for his second save in three chances.

The Pirates lead the season series 6-4, holding their own early in the season despite a rotation that's sapped by injuries and a lineup that strikes out a lot and wastes chances. Under the circumstances, the way the series ended was satisfying for them.

Jay Bruce hit another solo homer, his third of the series and his fifth in seven games. His ninth-inning shot off Jason Grilli led the way to the draining 13-inning win on Wednesday night.

The teams combined for seven homers in the series, all solo shots.

Brandon Cumpton made his second major league start for Pittsburgh, giving up two runs - one earned - in five innings.

Alvarez's throwing error helped the Reds get an unearned run in the first. Shin-Shoo Choo reached on Alvarez's team-high 13th error, stole second and came around on Joey Votto's single.

Another batter got hit, extending a prominent theme to the Ohio River rivals' series this season. At least one batter has been plunked in each of the 10 games, with 19 hit overall. Pirate pitchers have hit 10, Reds pitchers 9, leaving some simmering unhappiness on both sides.

Choo has been hit six times, Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen three times each, Brandon Phillips twice, and five others one time apiece.

NOTES: The official scorer changed a call from Wednesday night game. Russell Martin's grounder off Bronson Arroyo's glove was originally ruled an error, leaving the Pirates' lone run unearned. It was changed to a hit. ... The Pirates added to their depleted bullpen by calling up RH Duke Welker from Triple-A and optioning OF Alex Presley. ... A day after actor James Gandolfini died, Reds 3B and New Jersey native Todd Frazier replaced his Frank Sinatra at-bat music with the theme from "The Sopranos." ... Pittsburgh struck out 8, 17, 10 and 12 times in the four games. ... The Pirates head to the West Coast to play three against the Angels and two in Seattle. The Reds have an eight-game trip to Arizona, Oakland and Texas.