CINCINNATI (AP)—Pittsburgh turned in the defensive gem, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the one pitched by Aaron Harang.
The Cincinnati right-hander threw a three-hitter, Brandon Phillips hit a two-run homer and the Reds overcame the Pirates’ triple play in a 2-0 victory on Sunday.
Harang (1-1) faced just three batters over the minimum while pitching the sixth shutout and 12th complete game of his career. The right-hander threw 108 pitches, 80 for strikes, while improving to 12-5 against the Pirates.
“They knew I was throwing strikes,” Harang said. “I was hitting my spots on the outside corner, but keeping them honest on the inside part of the plate. They couldn’t lean out over the plate.”
Said Pittsburgh manager John Russell: “He’s not a veteran, winning pitcher in the majors for nothing. When he’s hitting his spots like that, he’s tough to beat.”
It was the first complete-game shutout of the year in the majors, and the earliest for Cincinnati since Pete Harnisch threw one against the San Diego Padres on April 4, 1999.
“It’s rare that you have a complete game that early,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “It shows you what kind of shape he’s in.”
The Reds managed only two runs and five hits over six innings against Pittsburgh right-hander Ian Snell (0-2), but had a chance to add to their lead in the eighth inning with Jay Bruce on first and Brandon Phillips on second.
Edwin Encarnacion hit a blooper into short left that was easily caught by Jack Wilson, who threw to Freddy Sanchez at second base to double up Phillips. By then, Bruce was already at second, and Sanchez threw to first baseman Adam LaRoche to complete the triple play.
“I didn’t know it was a triple play,” Phillips said. “I thought it was a bloop to left, and I was running to touch home plate.”
It was the first triple play for the Pirates since Aug. 10, 1993, at St. Louis, and the first time the Reds had hit into a triple play since April 21, 2007, against Philadelphia.
“That’s the first one I’ve seen in person,” Baker said. “There was one when I was with the Dodgers, but I was in the bathroom. I came out and asked what happened, and they told me there was a triple play.”
The Reds got the only runs they needed in the first when Willy Taveras led off with a double to left. Phillips followed two outs later with his first home run of the season as the Reds took the first lead of a game for the first time this season.
The Pirates also had a chance to score in the first after Nyjer Morgan blooped a double to short right-center that hit off the base of Taveras’s glove as he tried to make a diving catch.
Pittsburgh wound up stranding Morgan at second as Harang opened a stretch in which he retired 13 of 14 batters. He hit Morgan with a pitch with two outs in the third inning, but caught him trying to steal second base.
“He hit his spots well,” said right fielder Brandon Moss, who had one of the Pirates’ three hits. “He mixed in and out a lot and kept the ball down. He did his job.”
Harang, who lost on opening day despite giving up just one run in five innings, wound up striking out nine without issuing a walk.
“That was masterful,” Baker said. “Aaron was as sharp as we’ve seen him. I’ll take that all day long. It was unbelievable. He had a great changeup.”
The league leader in losses last season after going 6-17, Harang seemed to get stronger as the game went along, striking out the side in the sixth inning and punctuating a dominant effort with his third strikeout of Nate McLouth to end the game.
“He’s a good, quality ace,” Snell said. “That’s why he’s the leader of that rotation over there.”
The Reds left after Sunday’s game for their longest trip of the season, 11 days and 10 games at Milwaukee, Houston and Chicago. “Two places we’ve got to improve on from last year are winning on the road and in our division,” manager Dusty Baker said. “We can do both at the same time.” … Phillips’ home run was his first since last Aug. 22. He missed the last 17 games of last season with a broken right index finger. Phillips became the first Red other than Joey Votto to homer this season. … Pittsburgh 3B Andy LaRoche is hitless in his first 14 at-bats of the season. He and his brother, Adam, are a combined 3-for-36.