PITTSBURGH: Tyler Mahle cruised through six innings, Asdrbal Cabrera hit a go-ahead, pinch-hit sacrifice fly in the seventh, and the Cincinnati Reds avoided a three-game sweep by edging the Pittsburgh Pirates 1-0 on Thursday.
Mahle (12-5) allowed five hits all singles and struck out four with a walk as the Reds salvaged the finale of a nine-game road trip that saw them lose a little bit of ground in the chase for the second NL wild-card spot.
Mychal Givens worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the ninth by striking out Hoy Park on a full-count fastball for his eighth save as the Reds bounced back after a pair of one-run losses to the last-place Pirates.
Cabrera provided the game’s only run while pinch-hitting for Mahle in the top of the seventh.
Tyler Stephenson led off with a double against Cody Ponce (0-4) and pinch-runner Delino DeShields moved to third on Shogo Akiyama’s sacrifice bunt two batters later. Cabrera followed with a long drive toward the gap in left-center that let DeShields trot home.
The Reds finished their nine-game road swing through Chicago, St. Louis and Pittsburgh 3-6. Cincinnati is treading water in the standings with just over two weeks to go in the regular season. The Reds entered Thursday 1 1/2 games behind St. Louis in the race for a postseason berth.
Either Los Angeles or San Francisco whoever doesn’t win the NL West will claim the first wild-card berth. Cincinnati is hoping to emerge from a four-team scramble with St. Louis, San Diego and Philadelphia for the other.
A pair of tight losses including a 5-4 setback on Wednesday when Pittsburgh’s Wilmer Difo scored from second on a fielder’s choice in the bottom of the ninth had the Reds reeling. Mahle steadied them with an efficient if not spectacular performance that saw him lower his ERA to 3.54.
Ben Gamel had two of Pittsburgh’s six hits, but he was also thrown out at the plate in the second inning while trying to score from third on a fielder’s choice by Michael Perez. Cincinnati second baseman Jonathan India’s throw home was perfect and Stephenson had the ball by the time Gamel attempted to unsuccessfully slide under the tag.
Pittsburgh fell to 0-14 this season when trying to sweep an opponent. There were bright spots, however, for a club that went 6-3 during a nine-game homestand against Detroit, Washington and Cincinnati.
Rookie right-hander Connor Overton, claimed off waivers from Toronto earlier this month, worked three scoreless innings in his first career start.
The 28-year-old, pitching for his fifth organization since being taken by Miami in the 2014 draft, has worked 10 2/3 innings in the majors without surrendering a run. Pittsburgh’s bullpen was solid the rest of the way. Stephenson’s double off the right-field wall in the seventh was one of the few truly hard-hit balls all afternoon.
Reds: OF Tyler Naquin (ribs) missed his fifth straight game while recovering from a collision with Jose Barrero last Saturday. Cincinnati manager David Bell said Naquin is not progressing well. … OF Jesse Winker (ribs) was scheduled to make another rehab start for Triple-A Louisville on Thursday and could return to the Reds lineup as early as Friday.
Reds: Open a pivotal three-game homestand against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday. Luis Castillo (7-15, 4.24 ERA) starts against Walker Buehler (14-3, 2.32).
Pirates: Start a 10-game road trip on Friday in Miami. Wil Crowe (3-7, 5.97) faces Elieser Hernandez (1-1, 4.14) in the opener.
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