Andrew McCutchen hit a solo home run off Jonathan Broxton with one out in the ninth inning, lifting the Pittsburgh Pirates over the Cincinnati Reds 2-1 Saturday night.
A day after getting no-hit by Cincinnati’s Homer Bailey, the Pirates won with eight hits.
McCutchen’s 31st homer helped Pittsburgh keep a record 20th consecutive losing season at bay for at least a day. The All-Star hit a 2-2 fastball from Broxton (4-4) a couple rows deep in right-center before getting mobbed at home plate by his teammates.
Joel Hanrahan (5-1) worked out of a two-on, two-out jam in the ninth, setting the stage for McCutchen. Pedro Alvarez had two hits for the Pirates, who won for just the seventh time this month.
Cincinnati, trying to keep pace with the Washington Nationals in the race for the National League’s best record, again struggled to score runs. The Reds wrapped up the NL Central earlier in the week but have now scored just five times in their last four games.
A lone run on Friday was more than enough to preserve Bailey’s gem, and a game-tying single in the eighth by Scott Rolen on Saturday appeared to the Reds life. The Pirates loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning off Cincinnati reliever Logan Ondrusek, but Starling Marte popped out harmlessly in foul territory.
Hanrahan came on in a rare non-save situation and worked around a couple of walks to get to the bottom of the ninth. Josh Harrison lined sharply to center to lead off the inning and McCutchen smacked a Broxton offering into the stands to help the Pirates improve to 77-81.
Pittsburgh needs to win its final four games to avoid extending the longest losing season streak in North American professional sports history, and the Pirates’ seventh walk-off win of the season improved their record to just 14-34 since Aug. 8.
Back then Pittsburgh was trying to track down the Reds for the division lead. The bottom fell out shortly thereafter and getting no-hit for the first time on Friday night provided an ugly exclamation point on a collapse that turned a once-promising season into one that would end without a winning record for the 20th straight time.
While the Reds focus on the playoffs, Pittsburgh is already working on next season.
Kyle McPherson, who is trying to get a jumpstart one of the open rotation spots in 2013, finally found some solid footing in his third big-league start. The 24-year-old failed to get out of the fifth inning in each of his previous two outings due to command issues that led to bloated pitch counts.
There were no such issues against the Reds. Cincinnati led off the first with a pair of sharply hit singles but couldn’t score, and McPherson allowed just four hits over his six innings of work, striking five and walking just one.
Problem was, the Pirates couldn’t get anything going off Mike Leake. Pittsburgh ended any chance of getting no-hit for a second straight night early when Josh Harrison singled with one out in the first, but otherwise Leake matched McPherson zero for zero.
The Pirates finally took the lead in the seventh on a RBI-double by Alex Presley, but Jason Grilli gave it away an inning later when Rolen’s single to left scored pinch runner Denis Phipps.
NOTES: The series concludes on Sunday. Johnny Cueto (19-9, 2.83 ERA) starts for Cincinnati against Pittsburgh’s Wandy Rodriguez (12-13, 3.79) ... The Pirates drew their 17th season sellout of the season on Saturday and topped 2 million in attendance for the fourth time in franchise history.