Pirates slip past Reds, 2-1
CINCINNATI — The Pirates’ best hitter on the road gets even better when he’s down to his final swing.
Ryan Doumit hit a solo homer with two outs in the top of the ninth inning Tuesday night — his second game-deciding homer in three days — and Pittsburgh held on for a 2-1 victory over the Cincinnati Reds, who couldn’t stop the Pirates’ Mr. Clutch.
“You knew somebody was going to score sooner or later,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “We didn’t know they were going to score like that.”
Brandon Phillips tied it 1-all in the eighth with his 100th career homer off reliever Joel Hanrahan (1-0), who took over for left-hander Paul Maholm. Octavio Dotel pitched the ninth for his 10th save in 12 tries — he’s 7 for 7 in May.
Doumit, who is Pittsburgh’s top hitter on the road with a .333 average, had the first game-ending homer of his career Sunday in the 10th inning of a 3-2 win over Atlanta. This time, he connected off Nick Masset (3-3), sending the Reds to only their fourth loss in 11 games.
“Especially of late, he’s been swinging the bat well,” manager John Russell said. “That’s a huge hit. We gave up the homer and we came right back.”
All of the catcher’s five homers have come in the eighth inning or later.
“You certainly don’t script it like that,” Doumit said.
It was scoreless until the eighth, when a routine fly ball lost in the lights knocked Reds rookie Mike Leake out of the running for a notable win.
Leake was trying to become the first rookie Reds pitcher to win his first five decisions since 1976, when Santo Alcala did it with the Big Red Machine behind him. He didn’t allow an extra-base hit until center fielder Drew Stubbs lost Aki Iwamura’s routine fly ball in the lights, letting it drop more than 30 feet away for a leadoff triple in the eighth in twilight conditions.
“When I turned around, I couldn’t see it, either,” Leake said. “That’s a bad time of night. It happens.”
Not very often, and not in such a pressure-packed setting.
“Stubbs losing that ball brought back memories,” Baker said. “That happened to me here — Pete Rose hit a fly ball. That’s rare. I don’t think anybody saw it.”
Former first-round pick Neil Walker, called up earlier in the day, then doubled just inside first base for a 1-0 lead and his first major league RBI.
“I was just trying to be aggressive there,” Walker said. “I was hoping to keep it fair.”
Walker also spent last September with the Pirates. He was a catcher when the Pirates made him the 11th overall pick in the June 2004 draft, but has learned to play outfield and every infield position except shortstop. He made the two-hour drive from Triple-A Indianapolis on Tuesday and started at third base for Andy LaRoche, out with a bad back.
Walker is part of a wave of prospects expected to join the Pirates in the next few months, looking to get them turned around after an unprecedented 17 straight years of losing.
This one also featured one of the Reds’ quick-rising stars. The 22-year-old Leake was pitching for Arizona State a year ago, and made the jump directly to the majors in spring training, when he won the fifth spot in the rotation. So far, he’s been the best of the bunch.
Using a curve that dips and a fastball that darts, Leake has kept unfamiliar batters off-balance. He allowed eight hits — all singles — through seven innings, losing his shutout after Stubbs lost the fly ball.
Maholm kept up with Leake, allowing six hits in seven innings.
NOTES: LaRoche is expected to return to the lineup in the next few days. He has missed the last four games with a bad back. … The Pirates put 1B Steve Pearce on the 15-day DL, a day after his sprained his right ankle while making an off-balance throw. … Maholm picked Joey Votto off first base in the sixth inning. … Leake went 1 for 2 with a single. He has hit safely in five of his nine starts, going 7-for-19.