Reds 2, Brewers 1, 12 innings

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CINCINNATI (AP)—Aaron Harang knew his grandfather would have wanted it this way.

Harang returned from his grandfather’s funeral and pitched 10 innings Monday night, setting up the Cincinnati Reds’ 2-1, 12-inning victory over the Milwaukee Brewers that was special for one particular player.

“He wanted to win that game so bad,” said catcher Javier Valentin, whose single ended it.

Harang rejoined the Reds after spending the last three days in San Diego, where his grandfather died. He pitched on schedule because he figured it was a fitting tribute.

Earlier this season, Harang stayed behind after a series in San Diego to spend time with his grandfather, who loved the game.

“I know he’s out there with me,” Harang said. “He was a baseball fan. He wouldn’t have wanted me to miss a start. When we were out there and I stayed an extra day, he was mad because he thought I might miss a start.”

This time, the only thing Harang missed was the victory.

Valentin’s bases-loaded single off Grant Balfour (0-2) ended a game between two free-swinging teams. The struggling reliever walked Jeff Conine and Pedro Lopez to open the inning, then threw to third base too late on David Ross’ bunt to get an out.

Manager Ned Yost went to the mound and gave Balfour a pep talk halfway through the four-pitch walk to Lopez. It didn’t work.

“He just needs to find a way to throw more strikes,” Yost said. “I told him, `You’ve worked hard for two years. This is your game to win or lose right here. Bang some strikes and get your first win in two years.”’

Instead, Valentin pinch-hit and lined Balfour’s first pitch to right field to end it.

Balfour missed the 2005 season with shoulder and elbow injuries, and spent last season on rehab in the Reds’ farm system. He was called up by the Brewers last week after pitching well and throwing 95 mph in the minors.

He has made three off-target appearances for Milwaukee, giving up four hits, six runs, one homer and four walks in 2 2-3 innings.

“I’d better do something quick, I guess,” Balfour said. “I don’t know what I’m doing different. I’d been throwing strikes all year. I need to get back to doing that quick.”

Reds closer David Weathers pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-out threat in the 11th, inducing slow-moving catcher Johnny Estrada to ground into a home-to-first double play. Rookie Jared Burton (1-1) got the final two outs in the 12th for his first major league win.

But it was Harang who pitched as though this one had special meaning.

Harang gave up Ryan Braun’s solo homer in the fourth, then retired the next 17 batters before Braun singled with two outs in the ninth. The tall, stoic pitcher showed no emotion while he tore through the Brewers’ lineup, limiting Milwaukee to seven hits.

The crowd of 23,489 gave a loud cheer when Harang went back out for the 10th — he’d thrown 107 pitches at that point. He escaped a two-on, two-out threat by fanning Corey Hart for his 10th strikeout.

“It was one of those games where I got through nine and they asked me how I felt and I said I feel good,” Harang said. “That’s the best I’ve felt.”

Harang became the second pitcher in the majors to go 10 innings this season, joining Toronto’s Roy Halladay. Harang hasn’t lost since May 20, and could have more than his 10 wins if he wasn’t followed by one of the majors’ worst bullpens.

This time, the offense was his biggest problem. The two most homer-reliant teams in the majors—both scoring roughly 46 percent of their runs off homers— were in form.

Milwaukee’s Chris Capuano allowed only Ross’ solo homer during eight innings, giving up seven hits in all. The left-hander hasn’t won since May 7, going 0-6 in his last 11 starts around a two-week stint on the disabled list with a groin strain.

All the Brewers managed off Harang was Braun’s leadoff homer in the fourth, which extended the rookie’s impressive tear. The third baseman has 16 homers in 51 games since he made his major league debut on May 25, the best pace for a rookie in franchise history.

The Brewers opened a four-game series in Cincinnati hoping to do something about their fast-disappearing lead. Since they pulled ahead by 8 1/2 games on June 23, the NL Central leaders have gone 12-13 and given themselves reasons to sweat.

The latest loss left them 3 games ahead of the idle Chicago Cubs.

Notes

Harang is the first Reds pitcher to go 10 innings since Rick Mahler threw 10 during a 2-0, 13-inning win in St. Louis on Aug. 30, 1989. … Harang is the first NL pitcher to go 10 innings since the Cardinals’ Mark Mulder did it on April 23, 2005, against Houston. … Braun had three hits, extending his hitting streak to six games. … The Reds sent reliever Ricky Stone outright to Triple-A Louisville to open a roster spot for Harang, who had been on bereavement leave.

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