The Reds scored the go ahead run in the eighth, but were unable to score a second in that inning and instead saw the Pirates score twice in the eighth to give the Bucs a 2-1 victory at home on Friday.
Mike Leake and Edinson Volquez both pitched spectacularly to lead their teams, but it would be left to their bullpens to finish the game. Leake gave the Reds (65-70) seven strong innings, scattering six hits with one strikeout and no walks. Volquez was an out away from escaping the eighth, but instead gave way to Tony Watson (10-1) who allowed one of the inherited runners to score.
Volquez had his former team miffed in the early goings as the Reds did not get a hit until the seventh inning. They did have an opportunity to score in the sixth when Billy Hamilton walked, stole second, and then advanced to third on a throwing error by Russell Martin. Volquez kept Cincinnati off the board by striking out Todd Frazier and getting Brandon Phillips to line out.
Pittsburgh (70-64) also had a their first chance to score in the sixth after watching previous innings end in double plays. With two outs, Josh Harrison hit a ground rule double and then Jose Tabata singled to put runners on the corners, but Leake was able to get Andrew McCutchen to foul out and end the inning.
Devin Mesoraco broke up Volquez's no-hitter with a leadoff single in the seventh and then Jay Bruce followed with an infield single. Kristopher Negron not only had a hit taken away by Harrison, but the Pirates third baseman tagged third with his hand to force out Mesoraco and then threw across the diamond to nab Negron in a unique 5-3 double play. After a Skip Schumaker walk, Zack Cozart struck out to end the inning.
The eighth was a different story as Hamilton once again reached and then stole second. With two outs Phillips was hit by a pitch and that was it for Volquez. Watson came on in relief and needed only one out and got it, but not before the Reds scored the first run of the inning.
Mesoraco came through with an RBI single that easily scored the speedy Hamilton from second, but things got interesting when Starling Marte booted the ball in left, then made an offline throw to his cutoff man, shortstop Jordy Mercer, that skipped away from Bucs infielder. Phillips then attempted to score from third, but the man of the hour, Harrison, recovered the wild throw and threw a strike to Martin who tagged Phillips out before he touched home.
That proved costly as Jonathan Broxton (4-2) came on to hold the lead before handing the ball to Aroldis Chapman in the ninth, but that would not be the case. Andrew Lambo came through with a pinch-hit single and then Harrison hit an RBI triple off the Clemente wall. The Cincinnati native would finish just a home run short of the cycle. He would also score the go ahead run as Tabata bounced a single through the left side of the drawn in infield.
Mark Melancon came on for his 25th save of the season and was met with little resistance to retire the side in order. The loss prevented Cincinnati from winning its third straight in a much needed last gasp to grab one of the two wild card spots. The Reds are now seven back of St. Louis (71-61) and San Francisco (71-62) while the Pirates are 1.5 games back from their second wild card in as many seasons.
The Reds will look to secure their tenth win of the season (9-5) against the Pirates this season when Alfredo Simon (13-8, 3.26 ERA) faces Vance Worley (5-4, 3.14 ERA) on Saturday. The Reds will face Worley for the first time this season as a starter after they scored two off him over two innings of relief back on July 13. Worley has lost his last three starts while Simon finally won his first game since the All-Star break in his last outing. First pitch is set for 4:05 P.M.