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Harnisch, Casey trigger Reds win

The Associated Press

With a small crowd starting to think big Thursday night, Mike Benjamin opened the seventh inning with a grounder up the middle that eluded Harnisch’s glove and wound up as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ only hit.

Friday, August 20, 1999

With a small crowd starting to think big Thursday night, Mike Benjamin opened the seventh inning with a grounder up the middle that eluded Harnisch’s glove and wound up as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ only hit.

Harnisch tied his career high with 12 strikeouts and allowed only the one elusive single in eight innings as the Cincinnati Reds moved back into first place with a 1-0 victory.

Harnisch (13-6) remained unbeaten since June 12 despite a sore shoulder, extending his career-high streak to eight wins over a dozen starts.

This one had the most drama of the bunch. For the second time in his career, he took a no-hitter into the seventh and wound up losing it on a single. Chicago’s Mark Grace singled off Harnisch with two outs in the seventh for the Cubs’ only hit in a 1993 game.

”I’d really love to be in one in the ninth inning,” Harnisch said. ”That would be great. If I was with a guy who had a no-hitter in the ninth inning, I wouldn’t talk to him. If I had it going, I don’t think I’d talk to myself.”

Harnisch had it going against a Pirate team that had hit five homers the previous night. Harnisch allowed only one runner through six innings, walking Brian Giles in the fourth.

With the crowd buzzing as the seventh inning opened, Benjamin hit a grounder up the middle that bounced past Harnisch, who swiped the mound in frustration as the ball bounded into center field.

”I don’t get too many of those,” Harnisch said. ”I kick a few of them. I thought I had it, but my glove wasn’t as low as I thought it was. I usually deflect those somewhere.”

At that point, the focus turned to winning what was still a scoreless game. It could have gone either way with the way Kris Benson (10-10) was pitching.

Benson shut the Reds out on five hits through the first seven innings. He made his only mistake with one out in the eighth, a full-count changeup to Sean Casey that hung.

Casey pulled it just over the wall for his 20th homer. Right fielder Adrian Brown went back to the wall and jumped for the ball, but it was out of reach.

”Everybody was fired up. That was a big home run for me,” said Casey, who has only three homers since the All-Star break. ”It was so high, but I’ve hit them like that before. I saw Brown at the wall and I said, ‘Please get out of here.”’

Benson struck out a career-high eight in eight innings and allowed seven hits, extending his recent streak of solid pitching. He has given up only six earned runs in his last five starts.

”It came down to one pitch,” Benson said. ”I made one bad pitch and it cost us the game. I had a lot of confidence in that pitch I threw to Casey and just got it up in the strike zone.”

Scott Williamson pitched the ninth, allowing a walk before completing the one-hitter for his 17th save in 23 chances.

The victory moved the Reds back into first in the NL Central, percentage points ahead of Houston. The Astros lost to Milwaukee 6-5 earlier Thursday.

The Pirates lost three of four in Cincinnati but came away encouraged. They went 3-4 on a trip to Houston and Cincinnati and played both teams close.

”I think you can see that we’re not very far behind those guys and they’re real good teams,” Lamont said. ”It shows that there’s not a big difference. I think we have the main ingredient – good pitching.”

Notes: Pirates left-hander Pete Schourek, bothered by a sore shoulder, has been scratched from his start Saturday and might go on the disabled list. Jimmy Anderson will start against Arizona’s Randy Johnson. … The Pirates activated LHP Jeff Wallace off the disabled list and optioned him to Triple-A. … Denny Neagle and the Reds’ bullpen held the Pirates to two hits Aug. 9 in Pittsburgh. … Adrian Brown was 0-for-3 against Harnisch, extending his slump to 0-for-22. … No Reds pitcher has thrown a no-hitter since Tom Browning’s perfect game on Sept. 16, 1988. … Harnisch is 99-90 during his career. … The Reds failed to draw 20,000 for any of the four games of the series, even though they were fighting for first place. They sold 17,904 tickets for Thursday’s game.