Reds take 12-inning thriller on Bucs' error

Reds take 12-inning thriller on Bucs' error

CINCINNATI -- With a losing streak following them like the dust cloud over Pigpen, the Reds were willing to take a victory by any means necessary.

The smooth route provided by Homer Bailey's sterling start was eclipsed by a much tougher one. It took 12 innings and a lucky break, but the Reds washed off their five-game skid and a lousy road trip with a 4-3 win over the Pirates on Friday night.

With the bases loaded and no outs in the bottom of the 12th, Jonny Gomes hit a broken-bat grounder to Ronny Cedeno. The shortstop scooped it up and went home with a throw that was a little short but playable. Catcher Chris Snyder dropped the ball for an error as Chris Heisey scored the go-ahead run.

"You can't look too far into it besides that we won the ballgame," Gomes said. "No outs, bases loaded, put it in play and you've got a game-winner. That's basically what it calls for right there."

"I botched it," Snyder said. "I just clanked it. Inexcusable. Ronny did everything he needed to do. I've got to pick him up there but I didn't."

It was a big win because with the Cardinals' 8-6 loss to the Braves, the Reds (80-61) extended their National League Central lead to six games. The magic number to clinch the division was reduced to 17 with 21 games remaining.

"We needed to pick up that game bad. Hopefully we pick up some more this weekend," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

The need for extras seemed unlikely because the Reds had the perfect elixir to cure a losing streak in Bailey, who came in 5-0 with a 1.57 ERA in five career starts vs. the Pirates.

True to that track record, Bailey pitched brilliantly for seven innings and allowed one earned run and five hits with no walks and a career-high nine strikeouts.

"We're still in a race. No lead is comfortable," Bailey said. "Until that 'x' is by your name in USA Today and it says clinched, the lead is not safe."

Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead with one out in the top of the third when Snyder lifted a 2-2 breaking ball into the left-field seats. The Reds pounced on lefty Paul Maholm with three runs in the bottom of the inning, and did all of the damage with two outs.

Other than the Snyder homer, Bailey kept Pittsburgh quiet. Through the fourth inning, he had already struck out seven of his 14 batters faced.

"He was throwing the ball great. It's a shame he didn't get the win," Baker said. "I told him that's OK as long as we get the win. That's the attitude we have around here. It's been a while since we celebrated. It feels like it's been a month."

On the heels of a heartbreaking losing decision at Colorado, Nick Masset followed Bailey with a five-pitch, perfect top of the eighth inning. The two-run lead was turned over to closer Francisco Cordero, who appeared for the first time in five days.

Cordero had converted 11 consecutive saves since July 9 and hadn't allowed a run in his past nine outings, but did not get it done this time. He gave up three straight singles to start the ninth, with the third hit by Neil Walker landing in front of Gomes in left field to score Andrew McCutchen. With one out, Pedro Alvarez's RBI single to left field scored Jose Tabata and tied the game.

"In Coco's defense, he hadn't been out there in about [five] days. Before that, he was throwing the ball great," Baker said.

Other than Cordero, it was a great night for a Reds bullpen that allowed only one other hit and a walk. Aroldis Chapman surfaced for the top of the 11th to cheers from the 24,908 fans. Chapman threw only 10 pitches during his perfect inning with two strikeouts. Only two of his pitches -- both sliders -- were below 101 mph.

Bill Bray and Jordan Smith (3-2) -- the Reds' seventh and eighth pitchers of the night -- shared the scoreless top of the 12th inning. Leading off the Reds' 12th against lefty reliever Wilfredo Ledezma (0-2), Heisey saw Alvarez playing back at third base and alertly bunted on his own for a single.

"That was a great bunt by Heisey," Baker said.

Joey Votto was hit by a pitch on the right shoulder. Right-hander Joel Hanrahan entered and gave up Scott Rolen's lined single to left field that loaded the bases with no outs for Gomes.

And after several rough days on the road, the Reds finally caught a break.

"We'll take all the breaks we can get," Baker said. "Lately we haven't been getting any breaks. Like my old coach Luke Appling said, 'To be lucky, you've got to think lucky.'"

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.