PITTSBURGH (AP)—The Pittsburgh Pirates found a National League batting champion on their own bench two years ago in Freddy Sanchez. To their surprise, they may have discovered yet another productive bat there.
Nate McLouth, the major league hits leader, singled in the go-ahead run and had two more hits, and the Pirates won consecutive games for the first time this season by beating the Cincinnati Reds 4-3 Saturday night.
McLouth, a former part-time outfielder who beat out Nyjer Morgan during spring training to start in center, ran his hitting streak to 11 games when he singled ahead of Xavier Nady’s RBI single in the fifth.
After Joey Votto’s RBI single in the sixth tied it at 3 for Cincinnati, the Pirates regained the lead in the bottom of the inning when Brian Bixler singled for his first major league hit off reliever Mike Lincoln (0-1), moved up on Ian Snell’s sacrifice and scored on McLouth’s single to center.
Less than two weeks into the season, McLouth has 21 hits—and at least one hit in all 11 games—despite not getting more than 329 at-bats in his first three seasons in the majors. He has six RBIs in his last six games as a leadoff hitter.
“Nah, I try not to pay attention to that stuff,” McLouth said of being the hits leader. “When you’re getting those everyday at-bats and good things start to happen, you’re able to carry it from one night to the next and kind of build off it.”
McLouth is hitting .396 and has 11 RBIs, a mark he didn’t reach last season until July 29. He had only two RBIs last season until June 17.
Sanchez, who hit .344 to win the NL batting title in 2006 despite being a bench player the first month of the season, also broke out after finally getting to start.
“You never know if you’re going to get a chance to play—there’s so many good players and only so many starting positions in the big leagues,” the 26-year-old McLouth said. “But I was confident that if I got the chance, I would be able to compete and compete well.”
The Reds had 14 hits to Pittsburgh’s eight, but stranded 11 runners a night after leaving 12 on base during a 1-0 loss. They also committed three infield errors, two by third baseman Edwin Encarnacion. First baseman Votto’s two-base error for misplaying Doug Mientkiewicz’s hard-hit grounder in the second followed Nady’s leadoff single and led to Ronny Paulino’s two-run single.
“We gave them the first couple of runs,” said Reds manager Dusty Baker, bemoaning another one-run loss. “Again, we had a number of opportunities. … That’s a lot of runners (left on), a lot of them in scoring position. We just didn’t come through.”
The Reds were 5-for-17 with runners in scoring position and are 5-for-27 in the series.
“The big one just doesn’t come,” Reds starter Bronson Arroyo said. “We’ve left, I don’t know, 23 guys on base the last two nights. You wait for that big one and, hopefully, it will come. We’re playing some pretty good ball, but we’re getting squeaked out of wins.”
Arroyo allowed three runs, two earned, and six hits in five innings against his former club. He pitched for the Pirates from 2000-02 and hasn’t won in four career starts as an opposing pitcher in PNC Park.
Snell (2-0), the only Pirates starting pitcher to win this season, pitched 6 1-3 innings for the victory despite allowing nine hits and walking two.
“That wasn’t his cleanest outing, but he managed to get big outs,” manager John Russell said.
Snell left after Jeff Keppinger singled in the seventh for his third hit. But after Damaso Marte loaded the bases by allowing singles to Ken Griffey Jr. and Brandon Phillips, he struck out Adam Dunn, and Tyler Yates got Encarnacion on a flyball.
Snell followed up a 9-2 win over Florida on April 6 despite striking out only two, down from 10 in his last start.
Votto also had three hits for Cincinnati. … Arroyo didn’t allow a homer after yielding four homers in 5 2-3 innings Monday in a 5-3 loss to Philadelphia. … The Reds will lose the three-game series after going 2-0-1 in their first three series. … The Reds are 0-3 in one-run road games.