PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Amir Garrett was far from a phenom in spring training. In fact, the Reds rookie got hit rather hard.
Now that the season has started for real, the Cincinnati left-hander has been nearly untouchable.
Garrett threw another gem, taking a shutout into the seventh inning and leading Cincinnati over the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-2 Wednesday night for a three-game sweep.
"From the competitive standpoint, I'm not surprised because I've been hearing for a long time what a great competitor Amir is," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "But to pitch as well as he has on the road against two tough division rivals has certainly exceeded my expectations."
Garrett (2-0), the former St. John's basketball player, blanked the Pirates until David Freese hit a two-run homer.
Garrett gave up five hits, walked none and struck out five in 6 2/3 innings. In his major league debut last week, the 24-year-old pitched six scoreless innings to win at St. Louis.
This has come after he allowed 15 runs in 21 1/3 innings during the exhibition season.
The key for Garrett having more success in games that count has been throwing his changeup for strikes. It is a pitch most young pitchers have a difficult time mastering.
"I've been working on it in the bullpen and I really have confidence in throwing it right now," Garrett said. "I just try to keep it in the zone because it tends to dive when it gets to the plate."
Cincinnati has won seven of eight since losing to the Phillies on Opening Day. At 7-2, the Reds are off to their best start since 1990, when they led the division wire-to-wire and won the World Series.
The Reds finished last in the NL Central in each of the previous two seasons.
"I think we all felt we had a chance to be better coming out of spring training, but sometimes you have to go out and play and assess where you are," Price said. "I like what we've done so far. There is a much stronger sense of community and guys are seizing opportunities."
Jose Peraza, Eugenio Suarez and Tucker Barnhart each had three of the 15 hits for the Reds, who didn't homer for the first time this season.
Peraza had a two-run double to cap a four-run fourth against Ivan Nova (1-1) that broke a scoreless tie. Zack Cozart and Barnhart doubled to open the inning and Billy Hamilton's single made it 2-0.
The Pirates were outscored 21-5 in the series and were hitless in 23 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Suarez drove in three runs, including two with a double in a four-run seventh inning that stretched the lead to 8-0.
Nova pitched six innings and gave up three earned runs and eight hits.
"It's early in the season," Nova said. "We just have to find a way for our offense to get going and our pitching to get better."
DAVIS GOES ON DL
Reds rookie RHP Rookie Davis was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a bruised right forearm, a day after he was hit by a pitch. Right-handed reliever Barrett Astin was recalled from Triple-A Louisville.
The Reds have not decided who will take Davis' spot in the starting rotation Sunday against Milwaukee. Among the candidates mentioned by Price were a pair of relievers, left-hander Cody Reed and right-hander Robert Stephenson, along with Louisville righty Sal Romano.
SHIPPING UP TO BOSTON
The Pirates were originally scheduled to be off Thursday but will travel to Boston to make up a game with the Red Sox that was rained out last Thursday. Manager Clint Hurdle is looking on the bright side, though.
"We get to go to Fenway Park," Hurdle said. "Who can complain about a job that takes you to Fenway Park?"
Reds: Cozart (sore left wrist) returned to the lineup after missing the two previous games.
Reds: Open a four-game home series against the Brewers on Thursday night with RHP Bronson Arroyo (0-1, 13.50 ERA) facing RHP Jimmy Nelson (0-0, 1.50). Arroyo gave up six runs in four innings in a loss at St. Louis last Saturday in the 40-year-old's first major league game since 2014.
Pirates: RHP Chad Kuhl (1-0, 3.60) opposes Red Sox LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (0-1, 7.20).