What a Comeback!

During a pennant stretch it's easy to remember losing a late lead. Well, the Reds cancelled out one of those Friday when they overcame a ninth-inning three-run deficit themselves to catch Pittsburgh in 2nd place and they are now tied for the top NL wild card spot with eight games remaining in the season.

It's less than two weeks left in the season which magnifies everything done by a team making a late-season push in the pennant stretch and the Reds 6-5 comeback win at Pittsburgh has to go down as one of their most exciting regular season finishes in a long time. In the opening game in perhaps the biggest series at PNC Park in over two decades, Cincinnati found themselves in a three-run deficit with only one out left to go before tying the game with a ninth-inning rally and winning on a solo homer by Joey Votto in the tenth.

Things started off well enough for the Reds when they took an early lead off a walk and stolen base by Brandon Phillips that was followed by an RBI-single by Ryan Ludwick. That advantage would be brief because Pittsburgh answered with homers from their first two hitters. Later they added on a couple more runs with a fourth-inning rally.

Todd Frazier started chipping away at their lead when he led off the fifth with a homer. The Pirates got that back with another insurance run in the seventh. Ludwick got the game-tying rally started with a single in the ninth and scored on a throwing error on ball off the bat of Frazier. Zach Cozart followed that with a soft line drive out of the infield's reach and left the game in favor of pinch runner Billy Hamilton. Hamilton did his thing and swiped second to set up a dramatic plate appearance by Devin Mesoraco. The catcher battled in a nine-pitch at-bat before stroking an infield single that tied the score. Votto came back with one out in the next frame to barely clear the left field wall with his 24th long-ball of the season.

Ludwick led his team with three hits and Mesoraco added two. Votto, Frazier, and Cozart all reached safely twice with a hit plus a walk each. Mat Latos battled for six innings over which he allowed four runs off eight hits/two walks for no decision. Sam LeCure, J.J. Hoover, and Aroldis Chapman finished the game by each throwing a scoreless inning with Hoover getting the win and Chapman the save.

It's difficult to imagine a player used primarily as a pinch-runner having a bigger impact than Hamilton. Since debuting after an expansion call-up earlier this month he's swiped ten bases in as many attempts, gone 3-8 with a couple of walks at the plate, and scored seven runs. These are major league catchers and he'll get caught eventually. However, that was a bit hard to imagine when watching his easy swipe against Russell Martin who has been successful throwing out 42% of opposing base-stealers this season and executed a quick, strong throw that would have normally gunned down another. When Hamilton scored the game-tying run from second off an infield single his speed had him crossing the plate without a throw.

Unfortunately for Cincinnati fans the Cardinals had some extra-inning magic of their own and retained their two-game lead with a win over Milwaukee. The Reds will likely be playing in front of another full house Saturday when Homer Bailey faces A.J. Burnett in a game that will break a tie for the top NL wild card spot. Bailey has notched a win in both of his appearances against the Bucs this season and this will be his first start on their home field. Burnett has allowed four or more runs in five of his eight appearances since August 10.

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