Reds squeeze out tight win for sweep of Pirates
CINCINNATI (AP) — Cincinnati played small ball better than Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, allowing the Reds to take another big step toward a division championship.
Homer Bailey pitched seven solid innings and Cincinnati came up with just enough offense to squeeze out a 2-1 win for a three-game sweep of the Pirates.
"I felt like it was a battle all night," Bailey said.
The Reds (87-57) scored both of their runs on outs while moving 30 games over .500 for the first time since they were 96-66 on Oct. 3, 1999. They widened their lead in the NL Central over second-place St. Louis to 11½ games.
Manager Dusty Baker doesn't want to stop there.
"This was our fifth try at 30," he said. "We finally reached it. Now let's set the next goal for 35."
Cincinnati's win and the Cardinals' 3-2 loss at San Diego cut to eight the Reds' magic number for clinching the division. Any combination of Reds wins and Cardinals losses adding up to eight clinches the title for Cincinnati.
Bailey (11-9) allowed six hits and one run with two walks and four strikeouts to extend his career high in victories.
Sam LeCure pitched a perfect eighth and rookie J.J. Hoover allowed a two-out hit before striking out pinch-hitter Jose Tabata to complete his first career save.
"It was awesome," said Hoover, one of the relievers filling in as closer while Aroldis Chapman deals with a tired shoulder. "It was a good adrenaline rush."
Hoover is a Pittsburgh-area native, but he didn't attach any extra significance to reaching the milestone against his hometown team.
"It was fun, but I didn't look at it like that," he said.
Pittsburgh starter A.J. Burnett suffered his first loss in four decisions against the Reds this season, two in games started by Bailey. Burnett (15-7), 0-3 in five starts since beating Los Angeles on Aug. 16, allowed five hits and two runs with two walks and eight strikeouts.
"It was a well-pitched game on Homer's side," Burnett said. "You have to tip your hat."
The score was tied 1-all when Ryan Ludwick led off Cincinnati's sixth with a double down the left-field line. He tagged and went to third on Jay Bruce's fly ball to deep center field then tagged and scored on Scott Rolen's sacrifice fly down the left-field line.
The Reds cashed in a bit of good fortune to take a 1-0 lead in the third inning. Ryan Hanigan led off with a lined single to center field and moved to second one out later on Brandon Phillips' bouncer up the middle. Both runners moved up on Burnett's wild pitch, and Hanigan scored on Wilson Valdez's chopper to second.