CINCINNATI -- It was a situation where the Reds desperately needed Aaron Harang to deliver. He didn't disappoint. A two-out walk in the seventh inning put Harang into a bases-loaded jam against the Giants' Freddy Sanchez while Harang was well over 100 pitches. On a full-count pitch, Harang got Sanchez to hit a drive to right field, where Jay Bruce made a long running catch that saved three runs from scoring. Once over that formidable hump, the Reds went on to a 6-3 win over the Giants after dropping the first two games of the four-game series.
"That's what aces do," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "They reach back and get some more. He had a lot of pitches, but the bullpen's been used a lot and that was huge. Boy, he was throwing as hard at the end as he was at the beginning." Harang, who was 0-3 with an 8.31 ERA after his first four starts, is back to being a .500 pitcher at 5-5. He is 5-2 with a 3.93 ERA in his last nine games. "It was definitely tough early in the season to get that far behind and climb back," said Harang, who allowed two runs and five hits over seven innings with three walks and three strikeouts. He threw 114 pitches. The only Giants runs against Harang came in the second inning. After a two-out walk to Pat Burrell, Buster Posey slugged a first pitch 439 feet to left field for his first Major League homer. Real trouble didn't come until the seventh when Posey hit a one-out single and was followed by Eli Whiteside's infield hit. After a strikeout, Harang walked Andres Torres for the meeting with Sanchez. Either way, it was Harang's final batter of the night. But with the Reds bullpen struggling of late, Harang not getting Sanchez out could have created an ominous turn of events. "That was a batter of decision right there and a very tough batter to boot," Baker said of Sanchez. "I mean, this guy is the former batting champion. You know he's going to put the bat on the ball." Harang didn't begin well when he ran a 3-0 count to Sanchez. "Corky [Miller, the catcher] got me calmed down after [the] 2-0 count and then I went 3-1," Harang said. "I got that strike and Sanchez is an aggressive swinger. I figured something around the zone, he's going to take a hack at it, especially with the bases loaded and try to drive those runs in." "Tonight he was looking good and I was just uncomfortable," Sanchez said. "That last at-bat, the one with the bases loaded, I felt great. I saw the ball well. I just had nothing to show for it. It's frustrating, being in that situation again and not getting it done." It was a nice bounceback game for Harang, who lasted only a season-low four innings while throwing 98 pitches vs. the Nationals on Friday in a no-decision. He made some adjustments in his side bullpen sessions to prepare for the Giants. "I'm kind of trying to change my mentality when I'm out there," Harang said. "It was a tough start last week. I just threw too many pitches and fell behind deep in counts. I knew this was an aggressive team. You put the ball around the plate, you know they're going to swing the bat. I just tried to execute pitches and keep the ball around the strike zone and let them get themselves out." Harang wasn't the only veteran to step up to prevent the Reds' first three-game losing streak since mid-April. Orlando Cabrera was 4-for-5 with three doubles and three runs scored. Scott Rolen was 3-for-3 with a walk and twice drove in Cabrera with two-out doubles. Leading off the bottom of the first against Jonathan Sanchez (4-5), Cabrera snapped an 0-for-12 streak with a single and later scored the game's first run on Rolen's two-out double to left field. After Posey's homer made it 2-1 in favor of the Giants, Cabrera hit a one-out double in the third and scored on Jonny Gomes' bases-loaded walk to tie the game. Cincinnati took the lead in the fifth when Cabrera led off with another double and scored on Rolen's RBI double -- this time on a drive to right-center field. "The best thing is guys like Rolen driving guys home with two outs," Cabrera said. "That's just big-time right there." Facing Giants reliever Sergio Romo to begin the sixth, Drew Stubbs hit a home run that cleared the center-field fence for a two-run Reds lead. After Harang escaped danger in the seventh, Gomes put the game away with a two-run double to right field. "That was huge and we needed those runs, especially with the way things have been going," Baker said. The bullpen did not let down in the late innings. Daniel Ray Herrera and Logan Ondrusek worked a scoreless eighth. In a non-save situation, Francisco Cordero gave up a two-out RBI double but finished the game. Now Cincinnati has a chance to get a four-game series split Thursday afternoon.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.