CINCINNATI -- The Pirates' game Monday night against the Cincinnati Reds transitioned through several stages. The Pirates took an early lead. Then came the rough waters, when tension from previous events resurfaced. Finally came an extra-inning whirlwind, complete with bases-loaded escapes and sliding, game-saving catches, made all the more complicated by the expanded September rosters.
The end result, though, was a Pirates loss, the same as the previous three games, that pushed them farther from playoff contention.
Ryan Ludwick's walk-off single in the 14th inning gave the Reds a 4-3 win at Great American Ball Park Monday night. The loss extended the Pirates' losing streak to four games and dropped them to four games over .500.
The Pirates must now go 10-12 through the end of the season to win 82 games. They have lost eight of their past 10.
Devin Mesoraco ripped a single off the wall in left off Rick van den Hurk in the 14th. Brandon Phillips reached on a fielder's choice where the Pirates failed to record an out, and a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third. Ludwick grounded to the hole at short and Chase d'Arnaud snagged it on a dive, but lost control of the ball as he went to throw and Mesoraco scored to conclude the five-hour, 22-minute affair.
The Pirates loaded the bases in the 14th with no outs, but did not score a run, instead hitting a shallow fly ball and two weak ground-outs. They went 2 for 14 with runners in scoring position and left 15 men on base.
"Our offense had multiple opportunities to pick us up tonight in different situations," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It continues to not get us what we need when we need it."
The Reds had men on first and third against Joel Hanrahan in the 11th when Phillips hit a sharp liner to right field, but Jose Tabata made a sliding catch to end the inning and extend the game.
The Reds loaded the bases against Chris Resop in the 10th, with two of the runners reaching via walk. Resop induced a force-out at home to prevent the go-ahead run from scoring and struck out Jay Bruce with the bases full to end the inning.
Aroldis Chapman walked three batters in the 10th and loaded the bases, prompting Reds manager Dusty Baker to remove him for Sam LeCure. Chapman had thrown 22 pitches and only seven strikes. He also lacked his usual velocity sitting in the mid-90s rather than hovering around triple digits.
LeCure got Michael McKenry to ground out and end the inning.
Trailing, 3-1, in the seventh, the Reds tied the game. Bruce reached on a fielder's choice and Frazier reached on an infield single with two outs. With left-handed starter Wandy Rodriguez at 89 pitches, Hurdle pulled him and sent Jared Hughes to face the switch-hitting Dioner Navarro, who hits 22 points better against lefties than righties in his career.
Navarro doubled to right, scoring both runners and tying the game.
"I decided, you know what, we'll go make the move now," Hurdle said. "We'll flip the switch-hitter over who's better right-handed than left-handed.
"It's the second-worst feeling in the game from a manger's perspective when you make that move and it doesn't work. The worst one is when you leave the pitcher in and the guy hits a home run."
The tension of unfinished business surfaced in the eighth inning, stemming from the previous time the Pirates came to Great American Ball Park. In early August, Chapman hit Andrew McCutchen in the shoulder with a 101-mile-per-hour fastball, and the Pirates had not closed the book on that front.
Hughes hit Phillips with one out in the eighth inning. Phillips paused by home plate, then tossed the ball back in the direction of the mound, causing Hughes to start yelling at him. The umpires interceded, but A.J. Burnett came out of the dugout and was halfway to the baseline, at the ready.
Hurdle dismissed Phillips' actions -- "It's kind of Brandon being Brandon, isn't it?" he said -- but the gesture irked Hughes.
"The ball goes back to the dugout after you hit somebody," Hughes said. "It upset me at the time."
Hughes said Phillips didn't say anything when he flipped the ball -- or if he did, Hughes didn't hear it.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published September 11, 2012 4:45 AM