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Reds dealt another blow

The Associated Press

The Pirates vanished from the NL Central race long ago, but that isn’t preventing them from having an effect on the division race.

Monday, September 20, 1999

The Pirates vanished from the NL Central race long ago, but that isn’t preventing them from having an effect on the division race. Just ask the Cincinnati Reds.

Brian Giles hit two more homers – he needs one more to become only the third player in team history to hit 40 – and the Pirates played spoilers again Sunday by beating the Reds 8-5.

The Reds dropped two of three in Pittsburgh after losing two of three at home to the Cubs, costing them ground in their race to catch Houston. They also lost time, something that is vanishing quickly.

”We’re running out of games,” said Reds starter Pete Harnisch, who allowed five runs in three innings. ”There’s still time. But this one hurts, like all the rest of them have hurt over the last few weeks.”

Cincinnati trails Houston by 3 1/2 games with 12 games left for the Reds and 11 left for the Astros, who beat St. Louis 4-3 Sunday. The Reds fell four games behind New York in the wild-card race as the Mets beat Philadelphia 8-6.

”This is not the time to go into a rut,” manager Jack McKeon said. ”I’d welcome a 12-game winning streak.”

The Astros lost two of three to St. Louis, but maintained the same lead they had going into the weekend.

Even the Reds’ best starting pitcher couldn’t prevent another costly loss to the Pirates, who are playing much better down the stretch than they did in losing 25 of their final 30 last season.

Harnisch (14-10) couldn’t find the plate while walking two and hitting Ed Sprague with a pitch in a two-run Pirates first inning. The pitch broke Sprague’s left hand. The wildness extended to the bullpen as the four Reds pitchers walked eight and yielded three homers, including Kevin Young’s solo homer in the third immediately following Giles’ leadoff shot.

The Reds wasted Greg Vaughn’s 40th homer, a leadoff drive in the fourth off Jason Schmidt (13-10) that was Vaughn’s 11th in 18 games.

”It was pretty bad, I guess,” Harnisch said.

Giles added a two-run homer in the eighth off Scott Sullivan and, with his next homer, will join Ralph Kiner and Willie Stargell as the only Pirates to hit 40 in a season.

Giles seemed more excited about a victory that got the Pirates (73-75) to within two games of .500. They must win eight of their final 13 – one game was rained out and won’t be made up – for their first winning season since 1992.

A modest accomplishment for most teams, perhaps, but not for a Pirates team that finished 69-93 last season.

The Pirates can further influence the division race beginning tonight, when they start a three-game series at home against Houston.

”We’re trying to take one of these teams with us,” Giles said. ”It’s good to take two of three games from a quality team. We want to finish strong and win 80-some games.”

Giles grew accustomed to playing pressure games in September during three seasons as a part-time outfielder with Cleveland. He has enjoyed a breakout year in his first season as a starter, hitting .309 with 39 homers and 112 RBIs.

”At times, we probably lean on him too much,” manager Gene Lamont said.

Lamont said the six games against the division’s contenders will give an indication how close the third-place Pirates are to contending with the Astros and Reds.

”We know we can play against anybody,” Lamont said. ”We’ve played both these teams well.”

Schmidt yielded three runs, two earned, and five hits in seven innings. He is 3-1 in his career against the Reds.

The Reds finished 7-6 against Pittsburgh. The Pirates are 5-4 against Houston.

 

… Schmidt and Todd Ritchie (13-9) are the first Pirates to win as many as 13 games in a season since Doug Drabek (15-11) and Randy Tomlin (14-9) in 1992. Drabek was their last 15-game winner. … The Reds dropped to 47-26 on the road, still the best mark in the majors. … Vaughn has 11 homers this month, three short of Frank Robinson’s team record of 14 in August 1962. … Reds RHP Scott Williamson hasn’t pitched since Wednesday because of a cut finger on his pitching hand. … Sprague’s hand was placed in a cast and he will miss the rest of the season. A free agent, he probably played his final game for the Pirates.