Posted September 30, 2012 on AP on Fox
The Pittsburgh Pirates ensured they'd finish with a record 20th straight losing season Sunday when they blew a ninth-inning lead in a 4-3 defeat to the Cincinnati Reds. Pinch-hitter Xavier Paul led off the ninth with a home run off Joel Hanrahan (5-2) and Zack Cozart had a go-head double for Cincinnati, who clinched home-field advantage in the NL division series. They are competing with Washington for best overall record in the league. The Pirates extended their major North American professional sports record. Pittsburgh was 16 games over .500 on Aug. 6, but has lost 18 of 23 to fall to 77-82. Aroldis Chapman walked Jose Tabata to lead off the bottom of the ninth, but Tabata was thrown out at third trying to advance after Chapman's throwing error on a pickoff attempt. Chapman then walked Clint Barmes and allowed a single to Rod Barajas before striking out Michael McKenry and Starling Marte to end the game and earn his 37th save. Joey Votto went 2 for 4 with an RBI double for the Reds, who have won four of six to improve to 96-63. Reds bench coach and interim manager Chris Speier said that Dusty Baker would join the team later Sunday in St. Louis and resume his managerial duties Monday in the series against the Cardinals. Baker has missed 11 games after having a mini-stroke. Johnny Cueto pitched effectively but failed in his attempt to become the Reds' first 20-game winner in 24 years. Cueto allowed three runs - one earned - on six hits in seven innings. The most recent Reds 20-game winner is Danny Jackson in 1988. Wandy Rodriguez allowed two runs in six innings for the Pirates, who beat the Reds on Saturday but could not win consecutive games for the first time since Sept. 4-5. That also was the previous time the Pirates won a series, but things were looking good for fans at PNC Park on Fan Appreciation Day with Hanrahan taking the mound having converted his previous 16 save opportunities. Hanrahan had allowed four earned runs in 33 prior appearances at home this season. Andrew McCutchen put Pittsburgh up 3-2 with a single to center in the fifth. Steady rain accompanied the game's first pitch, and umpired halted play four minutes later. Grounds crew placed small tarps on the pitching mound and home plate but were stopped from pulling out the large infield tarp. Play was resumed after a 4-minute delay - tied for the shortest delay of any kind in the majors this season, according to STATS LLC. Each of the other two 4-minute delays took place in a dome. The Reds scored twice in the second inning on Votto's ground-rule double and Todd Frazier's groundout. Garrett Jones' 26th home run, a two-run shot in the bottom half, tied it. Wilson Valdez and Miguel Cairo added two hits each for the Reds. Sam LeCure and Sean Marshall (5-5) combined to pitch a scoreless eighth. Rodriguez finished his season 5-4 with a 3.72 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) with Pittsburgh since being acquired in a July 24 trade with Houston. NOTES: Reds 2B Brandon Phillips was removed from the game in the sixth with tightness in his left leg that first flared up while running the bases in the third. SS Cozart replaced him in the lineup, with Valdez moving to second base. ... Speier said Baker has been filling out lineups and making decisions remotely. Sunday morning, Baker called Speier to scratch Ryan Ludwick from the lineup because of the wet field conditions. Ludwick missed eight games due to left groin tightness until pinch hitting late in Saturday's game. ... The Pirates recognized the 40-year anniversary of Roberto Clemente's 3,000th hit during a pregame ceremony. ... The Reds and second-place St. Louis have split 12 games so far this season with St. Louis winning two of three played at Busch Stadium. ... Pittsburgh closes its season with three games against the Atlanta Braves, a team it has not played since April.
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