CINCINNATI -- Just one out separated Aaron Harang from a victory on Sunday. The Reds starter wanted it bad enough that he was willing to risk waiting over two hours for the chance to earn it. Harang got the "W" in the Reds' 8-5 win over the Astros by pitching the minimum five innings required. But after getting two outs in the top of the fifth, he had to wait out a two-hour, three-minute rain delay before he could get the needed third out. "We asked him what he would do if he were us," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He said, 'Oh yeah, I'd let me go out and pitch.' I knew he was going to say that."
Harang didn't idle inside the clubhouse during the delay and alternated between pitching and lobbying Baker and pitching coach Dick Pole to stay in the game once it resumed. "I stayed loose," said Harang. "We cleared out one of the bullpen mounds in the batting cage. I went in every 15-20 minutes and did my normal warm-up and then a light 12-15 tosses just to stay loose. "I went in there and told them I'm going to get this out. It doesn't matter to me how long I have to sit here and toss. I just tried to stay loose and stay active. The third or fourth time I warmed up, it was getting kind of dicey. They were getting a little antsy to decide what was going on." Once the tarp was cleared, the Reds had Jared Burton warming up in the center-field bullpen. But it was Harang who emerged from the dugout when play restarted. In the modern game as it is today, such a long delay would normally have forced the starting pitcher out as a precaution against an arm injury. Harang already had thrown 81 pitches and worked the equivalent of three innings indoors. "We were going to give him two hitters," Baker said. "If he couldn't get it done in two hitters, then we'd go to somebody else. With the hard luck Aaron had last year [6-17 record], you had to give him a chance to win that game." After play resumed, Harang threw 12 more pitches and gave up a single before a Humberto Quintero strikeout completed the Houston fifth to qualify him for the victory. Harang's line was three earned runs and 10 hits with one walk and five strikeouts. "I've never seen that," Quintero said. "We saw the pitcher warming up in the 'pen and [thought] that's the guy coming in, and when I saw [Harang], I was surprised." In the first inning, Harang had his hands full after he surrendered a two-run homer to Lance Berkman with one out. Carlos Lee followed with a triple, and Harang was then late covering the bag on a grounder to first base, which gave Hunter Pence a single. But he worked out of the jam with a strikeout and grounder to the mound. This was a big game to win for the Reds, who were missing Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips from the starting lineup. Baker wrote out three different lineups before going with what he called "the shock troop lineup." And had this been either of Harang's previous two starts vs. the Astros and their starter, lefty Wandy Rodriguez, it could have been a fatal top of the first inning for the Reds. Rodriguez, who entered with a 1.83 ERA, gave up just one run over a combined 14 innings in his previous showdowns this season with Harang. "Guys were like, 'Hey, keep them right there. We're going to put some runs on the board for you right here. Don't sweat it,'" recalled Harang, who also had two hits in the game as a batter. "They weren't lying. They put some runs on the board right away and had my back the whole day." All eight Reds runs were unearned. They picked up their pitcher with a five-run bottom of the first while sending 10 men to the plate. It started when Willy Taveras hit a grounder and reached on shortstop Miguel Tejada's error. With the bases loaded and no outs, Jonny Gomes lined an RBI single up the middle. There were two outs when Adam Rosales, Paul Janish and Harang added RBI singles for a 5-2 lead. "That just fills our starting pitcher's balloon back up right there," said Gomes, who was 3-for-4 with three RBIs and a walk. "If you can score as many as they do, that's awesome. If you can get a few more, those are just bonus runs that early in the game." Gomes added an RBI single in the fourth inning and walked with the bases loaded in the two-run bottom of the fifth. It was good insurance to have, since Burton gave up two runs in the top of the sixth after Harang's departure. Harang moved back over .500 with a 5-4 record and 3.36 ERA. The Reds improved to four games over .500 at 24-20. "I'm glad the delay wasn't any longer," Baker said. "We didn't know how many times he could warm up like that. He wanted it, very badly."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.