Votto’s homer, single rally Reds over Pirates 8-6

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CINCINNATI (AP)—At this point in another dismal season, the Cincinnati Reds are looking for any reason to feel a little better about themselves.

How about this: At least they’re not in last place.

Joey Votto hit a solo homer and a tiebreaking, bases-loaded single in the eighth inning Thursday, completing the Reds’ rally from a five-run deficit to an 8-6 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, who got to stay all by their lonesome at the bottom of the NL Central standings.

“It was real important for us,” manager Dusty Baker said. “They were gaining on us, trying to get out of last place.”

Instead, the Pirates blew a big early lead, gave up three runs in the eighth inning and lost for the 11th time in their last 13 games. A victory over the Reds would have completed a series sweep and left the two teams tied in the loss column.

“You couldn’t have scripted a better day,” manager John Russell lamented. “We’re going for a sweep and we’re spotted five runs.”

Craig Hansen (0-3) couldn’t hold a one-run lead in the eighth, when his wild pitch let in the tying run. Hansen has given up runs in six of his nine appearances with the Pirates, who got him from Boston as part of the three-team trade involving outfielder Jason Bay.

He came in throwing 96 mph fastballs, but most of them were off the mark. He walked two of the batters he faced and threw the wild pitch.

“He was trying to do too much in a situation like that,” Russell said. “He wants to come in and throw hard and dominate the inning, and it got away from him.”

Votto’s run-scoring single off T.J. Beam put the Reds ahead for the first time, and Edwin Encarnacion followed with a sacrifice fly.

Nick Masset (1-0), who came to the Reds in the trade that sent Ken Griffey Jr. to the White Sox, got the victory despite giving up a solo homer to Nate McLouth in the eighth. Francisco Cordero pitched out of a threat in the ninth for his 27th save in 33 chances.

“Generally, we’re just finishing off strong, trying to win as many as we can and hope it transfers to next year,” Votto said.

The Pirates swept the first series at Great American Ball Park in 2003. Since then, the two mirror-image franchises have shared misery and, quite often, the bottom spots in the NL Central.

At 59-80, the Pirates are two defeats away from clinching their 16th straight losing season, which would tie the major-league record held by the 1933-48 Phillies. The Reds are 62-78, leaving them within four defeats of their eighth straight losing season. It’s their longest such slump in a half-century.

The Pirates pulled ahead 5-0 in the second inning against Josh Fogg, who left after three innings with a strained groin. Chris Gomez hit a two-run shot off Fogg, the 37-year-old infielder’s first homer since April 14, 2007, when his grand slam off Kansas City’s Joel Peralta accounted for his only homer of last season.

It was another poor showing by Fogg, who has only one victory in 10 starts since returning from a sore back. His ERA over that span is 6.30. He strained his groin while tagging up on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third.

The Reds pulled even by scoring a run in five consecutive innings off left-hander Tom Gorzelanny and the Pirates bullpen. Jay Bruce and Votto hit solo homers.

“I was just trying to do too much,” Gorzelanny said. “I left a lot of balls up.”


Pittsburgh plays three in San Francisco over the weekend. The Pirates have won 13 of their last 15 against the Giants. … In three starts since he was recalled from Triple-A, Gorzelanny is 0-2 with a 6.61 ERA. … McLouth’s homer was his 24th, leaving him four shy of the club record for a center fielder set by Brian Giles in 1999. … Reds RH Ramon Ramirez made his second big-league appearance and singled for his first major-league hit.

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