CINCINNATI (AP)—The situation called for a bunt to set up one run. After seeing all the late-inning craziness of the last two days, Pittsburgh Pirates manager John Russell knew he needed more.
The Pirates came into the series with a bullpen known for protecting late leads, a sterling 29-0 when they were ahead after seven innings. In Cincinnati, they have struggled mightily to hold on.
That entered into Russell’s thinking when Xavier Nady opened the 11th with a single off David Weathers (2-4). Instead of having Wilson bunt the runner into scoring position, Russell let him swing away.
“At that point in the game, it was looking like scoring one run was not going to do any good,” Russell said. “We tried to do more than that, and it worked out for us.”
Wilson, batting ninth in the order the last two days in another one of Russell’s experiments, hit the ball toward right field. Ken Griffey Jr. dived and failed to come up with it, letting Wilson make it all the way to third base. Wilson scored on Nate McLouth’s single for a 6-4 lead.
Russell has batted his starting pitcher eighth and his shortstop last for the last two games. Wilson, who went 3-for-5, was surprised that he got to swing away in the 11th.
“I think after our output the last couple of days, we got him worn down,” Wilson said, referring to his manager. “He’s tired of playing small ball. It worked out real well for us.”
That one swing and that one futile dive made the difference in a 3-hour, 57-minute game.
“I felt like I made decent pitches,” Weathers said. “Jack Wilson hits that little thing into right field, and Griffey makes an unbelievable effort.”
Struggling closer Matt Capps (2-3) got the victory despite blowing a one-run lead in the 10th, when the Reds tied it on Brandon Phillips’ single. Capps has blown save chances in the first two games of the series. He gave up Griffey’s two-run, game-ending homer in the opener.
Since converting his first 15 save chances, Capps has blown five of his last seven opportunities.
“Usually, those games are decided by something funny, something out of the ordinary,” Russell said.
With that, the Pirates nudged ahead of Cincinnati, dropping the Reds back into last place in the NL Central.
Pirates starter Zach Duke gave up one run in five-plus innings, leaving him in position to get his first road win since May 27 last year in Cincinnati. With the bullpen’s meltdown, the left-hander now has failed to win his last 12 starts on the road.
Phillips tied it at 3 with a two-run homer in the eighth off Damaso Marte. Griffey started that rally with a double, and Phillips reached for a pitch below the knees and sent it into the left-field stands, his first homer in 59 at-bats.
Reds starter Edinson Volquez was coming off his worst showing, a 7-1 loss to Toronto on Thursday, and failed to make it through the sixth inning against the Pirates. Jose Bautista and Adam LaRoche had run-scoring doubles off Volquez, who gave up three runs and seven hits in 5 1-3 innings. His ERA, which led the NL coming into the game, rose from 2.08 to 2.24.
In the end, the Reds lamented their wasted chances. They had a runner thrown out at home, and got only one run out of a bases loaded chance in the sixth.
“We had several situations,” manager Dusty Baker said. “Those kinds of things come back to haunt you when you don’t pick them up. Bases loaded, only getting one run. In one-run games, you look back at a lot of little things that cost you.”
RHP John Van Benschoten will start the final game of the series Wednesday. Van Benschoten was 0-7 last season in nine starts and two relief appearances. He grew up in nearby Milford. … CF McLouth was back in the Pirates lineup after sitting out the series opener with a sore left knee. He went 2-for-5. … The Reds batted .218 in May, their worst month since May 1996, when they batted .217.