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Reds blow shot to tie Houston

The Associated Press

The Reds’ road show stalled in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, blowing a one-run lead in the ninth inning of a 5-4 loss that prevented Cincinnati from seizing first place in the NL Central from Houston.

Thursday, August 12, 1999

The Reds’ road show stalled in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, blowing a one-run lead in the ninth inning of a 5-4 loss that prevented Cincinnati from seizing first place in the NL Central from Houston.

The Astros lost in Atlanta 8-5, and would have fallen behind Cincinnati by percentage points if the Reds won.

The Reds’ loss was all the more inexplicable because of where it occurred – on the road, where they lead the majors with a 38-17 record – and because of who lost it.

Rookie reliever Scott Williamson (10-5), nearly unhittable while retiring 15 of 18 hitters in his previous four outings, let a 4-3 lead evaporate with walks to Abraham Nunez and Al Martin and Brian Giles’ game-winning two-run double.

The Reds spent most of the game building or preserving leads of 2-0, 3-2 and 4-3, only to see the Pirates rally to win against their ace reliever.

”I just didn’t make my pitches. I got behind in the count and I got hurt,” Williamson said. ”I didn’t have the good slider. I didn’t have any of my pitches. I was just erratic.”

The Reds were about to win for the 34th time in 44 road games until Williamson lost it.

His control, that is, then the game.

Manager Jack McKeon tried afterward to calm down Williamson, who leads NL rookies in wins (10) and saves (16) and has been a major contributor to the Reds’ run at a division title.

”He was trying to throw the ball through a wall,” McKeon said. ”He’s done a heck of a job for us all year. I guess he’s human. You’re not going to get it done every time. It happens to the best of them.”

Even worse for the Reds, it rarely happens for the Pirates, one of the worst teams in the majors when trailing in late innings. They are 1-50 when behind after the eighth.

Giles was in a slump – 6-for-36 this month – before hitting Williamson’s slider on a 1-1 pitch down the right-field line. Nunez scored easily and Martin, who just entered as a pinch-hitter, barely beat first baseman Hal Morris’ relay to the plate.

The Pirates finished 8-5 on their longest homestand of the season, despite being limited to seven hits in losing the first two games to Cincinnati.

”We didn’t want to end the homestand by getting swept,” Giles said. ”It was an exciting way to win it. I’ve been terrible this month.”

Reds pitching coach Don Gullett said Williamson was overthrowing the ball, trying to overpower hitters instead of letting his pitches work for him.

”There’s an adrenalin factor, you’re all pumped up. But when you walk two, you’re beating yourself and he knows that,” Gullett said. ”He’s such a competitor, sometimes he tries to overdo it.”

Mike Williams (2-2) got the victory despite allowing Dmitri Young’s RBI double in the top of the ninth.

Greg Vaughn singled in a run in the Reds’ first, then singled to start the fourth against Jason Schmidt and came home on Aaron Boone’s force-play grounder as the Reds went ahead 2-0.

The Pirates tied it 2-2 in the fourth, but Michael Tucker tripled and scored on Morris’ single in the sixth off Schmidt.

”It was on my mind that we didn’t want to get swept,” Schmidt said. ”I didn’t pitch that well but they bailed me out. It’s a good feeling.”