Reds, Pirates jockey for position in the Steel City

10:08 AM, Sep 21, 2013   |    comments
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(Sports Network) - If Friday's opener was any indication, a one-game playoff set between the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates would be quite the exciting matchup.

The two NL Central clubs will snap their deadlock atop the wild card standings on Saturday evening in the second contest of a three-game series.

After being one out away from dropping the opener, the Reds rallied from three runs down to claim a 6-5 victory in 10 innings on Friday night. Cincinnati's fourth straight win gave it an 88-66 record on the season, matching Pittsburgh.

The division rivals have split 14 games this season and are five games up on Washington in the wild card race as well as two games back of the St. Louis Cardinals for first place in the NL Central.

The Reds trailed 5-2 in the ninth and got their first run of the frame with two outs when Jordy Mercer's throw to first on a Todd Frazier grounder was high. Zack Cozart then singled and a pinch-running Billy Hamilton stole second before Devin Mesoraco's infield hit plated two runs.

Joey Votto's homer in the 10th inning gave the Reds their sixth victory in eight games.

"It's really uncommon," Votto said of the comeback. "It's a rarity. For us to have done that in a game like this, against this squad, against that pitcher makes it even more rare. It's pretty impressive."

Mark Melancon suffered the blown save in the ninth as the Pirates absorbed their first loss when leading by three or more runs since 2009, snapping a string of 163 straight wins in that situation

"We should have won that game. That was our game to win," Melancon said.

The Reds hope to grab sole possession of the first wild card spot behind Homer Bailey, who is unbeaten in nine straight outings since a loss on July 26.

Bailey, who threw a no-hitter on July 2, is 6-0 with a 2.60 earned run average since his last defeat, with the Reds 8-1 over that stretch. The righty is coming off a 7-3 win over Milwaukee on Sunday as he gave up three runs despite five hits and four walks over seven innings.

"Homer was good today. He struggled quite a bit in the game but made pitches when he had to and made plays to get out of jams," said Reds manager Dusty Baker.

Bailey has been solid over his career when facing the Pirates, going 8-3 with a 2.66 ERA in 14 meetings. He is 0-1 in two against them this year despite a 3.65 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings.

A.J. Burnett tries to rebound from a tough-luck loss last time out for the Pirates.

The righty gave up just two run on six hits and three walks over 6 2/3 innings versus the Padres on Monday, striking out eight but taking a 2-0 defeat. He fell to 8-11 on the season with a 3.43 ERA in 28 starts.

"That's a big-league lineup. It is just baseball. Struggles or not, they have a big-league lineup. Take nothing for granted," said Burnett.

Burnett has gone 4-4 with a 2.35 ERA in 13 outings at home this season and is 5-6 lifetime versus the Reds with a 4.03 ERA. The 36-year-old is 0-1 against them in 2013 with a 3.86 ERA.

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