Reds 4, Pirates 3

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PITTSBURGH (AP)—The Cincinnati Reds must be wondering how much better their record would be if they played every inning the way they do the ninth.

Barry Larkin’s two-out single drove in the go-ahead run during yet another Cincinnati ninth-inning rally, and the Reds—twice within a strike of losing— came back to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-3 Wednesday night.

The Reds won it with three consecutive hits on full-count pitches by Pirates closer Mike WilliamsRay Olmedo’s single, pinch-hitter Reggie Taylor’s tying double down the right-field line and Larkin’s single to short right field. Taylor’s hit was only his fifth in his last 34 at-bats.

Cincinnati won for a major league-leading 21st time in its final at-bat and leads the majors with 19 one-run victories. All but 12 of their 40 victories have come in games decided by two runs or fewer.

“It’s great to watch this team come back like it does,” said Scott Williamson, who pitched the ninth inning for his 20th save in 23 chances. “This team never gives up.”

Several Reds said the key at-bat was by Olmedo, a rookie who is 10-for-21 during a 12-game road trip that concludes Thursday. He had never faced Williams, yet came back to get a key hit after falling behind in the count.

“I was looking for one pitch, a fastball,” Olmedo said. “He threw me changeup, changeup, changeup, changeup … when it was 3-2, and I was thinking changeup, he threw me a fastball.”

Starting pitcher Paul Wilson said the Reds have something special going in the ninth inning. Manager Bob Boone said there’s a little bit of magic, too.

“When you keep doing this, it gives you confidence,” Boone said. “You almost expect it to happen.”

It was the second straight night the Reds rallied to win in PNC Park, as they scored twice in the eighth to win 5-3 Tuesday night.

“It came down to the last strike, to the last out,” Wilson said. “It was exciting. It makes you believe. It’s fun.”

The Reds had five hits in the ninth against Williams (0-3), four of them with two strikes, as Pirates starting pitcher Kip Wells was again denied his first victory in PNC Park in more than a year.

Williams, an NL All-Star reliever last season, already has as many blown saves (four) as he had a season ago, when he had 46 saves. His ERA has climbed to 6.03.

Afterward, Williams was so disappointed, he kept talking about the mistake he made by walking Olmedo, even though the rookie got a hit.

“You feel bad for Kip, you feel bad for everybody. I feel bad for myself,” Williams said. “It’s hard on an entire team to lose like this.”

Felix Heredia (4-0) struck out the only two batters he faced in the eighth for the victory. The Reds had 13 hits to the Pirates’ seven.

The Pirates once led 3-1 as Brian Giles homered for the second straight game and drove in two runs. He hit his ninth homer of the season leading off the fourth, then doubled off Wilson in the sixth to score Jeff Reboulet, who reached when shortstop Larkin misplayed his grounder—the Reds’ NL-leading 75th error.

Wells pitched eight-hit ball over eight innings, but now has gone 13 consecutive starts since last winning at home on June 26, 2002, against Montreal.

“It’s frustrating, but if you talk to anybody on this club, it’s frustrating because we lost, not because I haven’t won,” Wells said. “I still have a lot of confidence in Willie (Williams). It’s just unfortunate.”

Wells has won only once in his nine starts as the Pirates’ bullpen has failed to hold a lead for him six times.

Aaron Boone, only 7-for-42 during the Reds’ road trip, slammed his batting helmet in disgust after being called out on a third strike in the eighth and was ejected by home plate umpire Jay Klemm. The Reds trailed 3-2 at the time,and Boone left two runners on base.

Notes

Giles has five hits in the series and is 10-for-20 in his last five games. … Former Dolphins star quarterback Dan Marino, wearing a Pitt football shirt, attended the game. Marino starred at Pitt from 1979-82. … Reds 1B Sean Casey sat out the first game of a two-game suspension for fighting June 13 against the Philadelphia Phillies. Casey accepted the suspension after it was cut from three games to two. … The Reds became RHP Todd Van Poppel’s sixth major league club when he was called up from Triple-A Louisville. He was released by Texas last month. … Wells is 0-2 with four no-decisions at home this season. He is 5-8 in PNC Park since being traded to the Pirates before the2002 season.

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