PITTSBURGH (AP)—Freddie Sanchez couldn’t do what he was supposed to do, so he improvised.
Sanchez tripled off the glove of left fielder Ryan Freel to tie the game and scored the go-ahead run on Jack Wilson’s single as the Pittsburgh Pirates rallied for three runs in the eighth inning to beat the Cincinnati Reds 9-7 Sunday.
“It felt good leaving the bat, but I was just glad I made something happen after I couldn’t get down a sacrifice bunt and then couldn’t execute the hit-and-run,” said Sanchez, who had three hits. “I’m just glad he didn’t rob me. He’s a good outfielder, and he’s capable of making those kinds of plays.”
Mike Gonzalez (1-3) pitched the final two innings for the Pirates, who have won four of five. He struck out Freel with the bases loaded to end the game and give Pittsburgh its first home series win since the Pirates took three of four games against Colorado July 21-24.
“We scored seven runs and we still had a lot of chances,” Reds interim manager Jerry Narron said. “When you get to the end of the game and have a chance to tie or go ahead, in a game like that, back and forth, that’s about all you can ask for.”
Wilson went 2-for-4 and is hitting .344 over his last 15 games, and Pirates interim manager Pete Mackanin said Wilson’s offensive contributions have been critical.
“He’s a better hitter than he showed in the first half of the year, and he’s coming around,” Mackanin said. “He’s been a big plus for us. He’s playing with confidence. He’s playing with energy.”
Pirates starter Oliver Perez, making his third start since coming off the disabled list, allowed five runs—four earned—five hits and five walks in 2 2-3 innings.
Reds starter Eric Milton gave up six runs and six hits in two-thirds of an inning, the shortest of his 231 major league starts, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Luke Hudson followed with 5 1-3 scoreless innings of two-hit relief. He struck out Craig Wilson with the bases loaded to end the sixth.
“I’m very, very happy with the way Luke Hudson pitched,” Narron said. “Being moved out of the rotation, he could have easily just mailed it in but he hasn’t. He worked hard and today threw strikes.”
Jason LaRue hit a three-run homer in the first, but Pittsburgh went ahead with six runs in the bottom half on RBI singles by Jason Bay and Humberto Cota, a bases-loaded walk to Jose Bautista, a two-run, two-out single by Perez and an RBI single by Sanchez that chased Milton.
“I struggled to get the ball down,” Milton said. “I got steamrolled again. One thing led to another.”
Freel hit an RBI single in the second and scored from first when Rich Aurilia hit a slow roller to second. Sanchez threw wildly to first for an error and Eldred, the first baseman, threw the ball into left field for another error when he tried to get Aurilia at second.
Austin Kearns tied it with an RBI grounder in the fourth, and Wily Mo Pena put Cincinnati ahead 7-6 with a sacrifice fly off Bryan Bullington, who relieved Perez in the third and was making his major league debut.
“These are the games we were losing before,” Sanchez said. “That’s what separates a winning ballclub from a losing ballclub, games like this.”
Pirates GM David Littlefield said Sunday that Dave Williams (strained muscle) and Mark Redman (broken finger) will not pitch again this season. Redman was injured Sept. 3 at Chicago … LaRue also homered Sept. 11 against Pittsburgh … Perez stole second base in the first inning, becoming the first Pittsburgh pitcher to steal since Josh Fogg against Florida on Aug. 28, 2003.