By WILL GRAVES
AP Sports Writer
6:50 PM EDT, August 21, 2011
PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Cincinnati Reds have found a way to do something few other teams have done this season: Solve Pittsburgh Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan.
Ramon Hernandez hit an RBI-single to tie the game with one out in the top of the ninth and Dave Sappelt scored on Brandon Phillips’ fielder’s choice two batters later as the Reds rallied for a 5-4 victory on Sunday.
Joey Votto added a three-run homer for the Reds. Jose Arredondo (3-3) pitched two perfect innings of relief while closer Francisco Cordero survived an eventful ninth to pick up his 26th save as Cincinnati beat Hanrahan (0-3) for the second time in three days.
“He’s one of the best closers around,” said Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker. “There’s the theory about the third day in a row being tough on a pitcher but sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
Cincinnati touched the burly right-hander for three runs in 1-3 of an inning of an 11-8 win on Friday. Though Hanrahan rebounded to pick up his 31st save on Saturday, on Sunday he again ran into trouble while struggling with his control.
“Everybody goes through a tough stretch. Mine is right now, I guess,” Hanrahan said after blowing his third save of the season. “So that’s something you’ve got to battle through and maybe cut back in the weight room or something, but it’s just a tough stretch. You just gotta come out and be ready the next day.”
Todd Frazier led off the ninth with a single and later Ryan Hanigan walked with one out. Frazier scored on pinch-hitter Hernandez’s single to left and the Reds loaded the bases on a soft single by Miguel Cairo.
Phillips followed with a chopper to second. Pittsburgh’s Neil Walker hurried a toss to shortstop Ronny Cedeno for one out but had no chance to get a hustling Phillips as Sappelt crossed the plate to put Cincinnati in front.
“It was a big victory for us, especially against their closer that has been outstanding all year and has good stuff,” Cairo said. “It was great to be able to get some runs off him a couple of times in this series.”
Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen each hit two-run homers for Pittsburgh, which had been a perfect 52-0 when leading after eight innings.
The Pirates had a chance to return the favor off Cordero in the bottom of the ninth. Ryan Doumit hit a lead-off single against Cordero but pinch-runner Josh Harrison was called out on a close play at second. Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle came out to argue the call and was ejected for the fourth time this season and second time in three days.
“I kind of stood there in disbelief a little bit and Clint was on his way out,” Harrison said. “But I was in there.”
Walker doubled with one out and advanced to third on a sacrifice fly but Cordero got Brandon Wood to ground out to third to end it.
Both clubs were hoping for solid outings from the starters after a pair of lengthy games to open the series. Cincinnati’s starter Mike Leake and Pittsburgh’s James McDonald tried to oblige.
Leake gave up four runs on five hits, striking out one and walking five while McDonald surrendered three runs on three hits with three walks and three strikeouts.
Though he didn’t factor in the decision, Leake was thankful the Reds were able to win a close one. Cincinnati’s 27 losses in one-run games are tops in the majors.
“”I wish we could do that with one-run ballgames more often,” Leake said. “We haven’t had much luck with one-run games this season.”
It appeared things were heading that way again after McDonald settled down following a shaky first inning that required 26 pitches to navigate.
His lone trouble spot came in the fifth. Phillips doubled with one out and Fred Lewis walked. Votto worked the count full then took a fastball and sent it just over the wall in center for his 22nd homer of the season to put Cincinnati in front 3-2.
The Pirates wasted little time responding. Jose Tabata, who agreed to a six-year $14.75 million contract early Sunday that also includes three club options, drilled a shot off the wall in right and sprinted to third for a leadoff triple before Jones scooped Leake’s 1-2 breaking ball off the dirt and into the right-field seats to put Pittsburgh back in front.
Pittsburgh’s hamstrung bullpen made it stand up. Jason Grilli worked out of a two-on jam in the seventh while Jose Veras, pitching for the third day in a row, breezed through a perfect eighth and appeared to set the stage for Hanrahan.
Yet the leadoff single by Frazier seemed to rattle him and the two walks sent him to another frustrating defeat.
NOTES: The start of the game was delayed 41 minutes by rain and delayed another 20 minutes in the top of the seventh. ... Pirates P Paul Maholm will visit Dr. James Andrews on Monday to have his left shoulder examined. Maholm went on the disabled list for the first time in his career last week ... Pittsburgh opens a four-game set with the first-place Milwaukee Brewers on Monday with a doubleheader. Jeff Karstens (9-6, 3.12 ERA) starts the first game while Brad Lincoln will start the nightcap. ... The Reds are off Monday and begin a three-game series at Florida on Tuesday. Johnny Cueto (9-5, 1.89 ERA), who leads the NL in ERA, starts for Cincinnati. ... Reds pitcher Homer Bailey served as a pinch-runner in the seventh.
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