Brandon Phillips caused a bit of a stir Friday when some comments about his contract came out in an article in Cincinnati Magazine. He thought the whole thing was a bit overblown.

As he spun it, he allowed modestly that: "The fans love me."

All the more after Friday night.

Phillips' three-run double was the key blow in the Reds' 5-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates before a sellout crowd of 40,831 at Great American Ball Park. It was the 10th sellout of the year.

Phillips' 77 RBI and .410 batting average with runners in scoring position are two of the big reasons the Reds are firmly in contention.

"Ribeye steaks," Phillips said, referring to baseball lingo for RBI. "That's only thing I eat. I'm going to eat two tonight. I don't think I can eat three. When I see guys in scoring position, that's my job. That's what it's all about. I've been working my butt off for it."

If the Reds are to make a run in the second half, they have to play well early. That makes this three-game series against the Pirates big. The Pirates came into town in second place in the National League Central, four games ahead of the Reds and a game behind the St. Louis Cardinals.

"This is what it’s all about," Phillips said. "The second half. We've got to get it going. The Pirates are a great team. It's time to have fun and win every game we can. Learn from the mistakes we made the first half.

"We're playing good baseball. But the other teams are playing good too. We've got to keep it going."

Winning the first of a series is always big.

"I think we’re going into every series wanting to sweep," said Manny Parra, who got the key out of the game for the bullpen. "You win the first one and it keeps that opportunity there. We come out tomorrow and try to win again and keep gaining ground."

It looked like the Reds were going to have an easy time of it Friday. Phillips' double gave the Reds a5-0 lead in the fifth. Mike Leake (9-5) was working on a three-hitter at that point. But he gave up three solo home runs in the sixth.

But the bullpen kept it right there.

Chris Heisey got the Reds started in the first. He hit a 3-2 pitch out to left for his fifth home run of year.

Francisco Liriano settled in pretty well after that. He had retired five in a row going into the fifth. Devin Mesoraco led off the fifth with a double. Leake grounded to shortstop. Mesoraco tried to go to third. He was out easy.