It fit the trajectory of 2012 that the Pirates lost the game that clinched their 20th consecutive losing season, one in which they appeared playoff-bound but then fell off in the second half, by blowing a late lead.
A twist: Members of the 2011 Pirates, who also endured a second-half slide, did the damage.
The Cincinnati Reds scored two runs off Joel Hanrahan in the ninth and defeated the Pirates, 4-3, Sunday at PNC Park. The Pirates lost their 82nd game, securing a sub-.500 record for the 20th year in a row.
"Nobody saw that coming," Garrett Jones said. "Everybody's pretty ticked about it. Hopefully we just keep winning here, go out of the season on a positive note and just build on it."
Xavier Paul and Ryan Ludwick, both members of the Pirates in 2011, brought the Reds back from behind. With the Reds trailing 3-2 in the ninth, Paul hit a pinch-hit home run off Hanrahan in the top of the ninth to tie the game at 3-3. Ludwick, who was scratched from the lineup before the game, pinch-hit and doubled, and Zack Cozart's double scored pinch-runner Denis Phipps to give the Reds a 4-3 lead.
"Last couple of games, I haven't been able to put people away very well," Hanrahan said. "[Paul] leaned out over the plate and yanked it."
Hanrahan (5-2) allowed two runs on three hits. He had converted 16 consecutive saves since July 4.
"We haven't really given him many save opportunities of late," Jones said. "It happens. It shows he's human. Sometimes balls are going to fall in and things aren't going to go your way. He's done a great job for us overall this season."
Hanrahan said the lack of save situations in the previous month hadn't really affected him.
"I've still been pitching," Hanrahan said. "It's not like the pressure gets to me in that kind of situation. I had a guy 0-2 and didn't put him away. You can't do that here."
Aroldis Chapman walked Jose Tabata in the bottom of the ninth. Chapman tried to pick Tabata off, but made a bad throw, and Tabata went for second. Third-base coach Nick Leyva waved Tabata to third, but Wilson Valdez made a perfect throw that beat Tabata to the bag.
"Once he's waved, he's waved and he's going," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It turned out to be not a good decision."
Chapman walked Clint Barmes and Rod Barajas singled, but struck out the final two batters to earn his 37th save. Sean Marshall earned the win in relief.
Wandy Rodriguez gave the Pirates another good outing, something they have come to expect from him in recent weeks. He allowed two runs in six innings and struck out seven.
"He's found a real good place on the mound with us," Hurdle said. "He competes, he likes being on the mound and he likes going after people."
Reds starter Johnny Cueto allowed three runs, one earned, on six hits in seven innings, but could not win his 20th game.
Three consecutive hits gave the Reds a 2-0 lead in the third. Brandon Phillips and Valdez singled and Joey Votto hit a ground ball down the third-base line. Phillips scored, but fan scooped the ball off the field, forcing Valdez to stop at third. Todd Frazier's ground ball scored Valdez.
Jones tied the game at 2-2 in the bottom of the third with his 26th home run. Alex Presley reached second on Joey Votto's two-base error, but got caught in a rundown when Cueto snagged Josh Harrison's chopper. Jones then hit a 1-0 pitch into the seats in right to tie the game.
Andrew McCutchen broke the tie in the fifth. Presley doubled and took third on Harrison's sacrifice bunt. McCutchen's single scored Presley to give the Pirates a 3-2 lead.
The Pirates concluded a three-game series against the Reds in which each game was decided by one run.
"Our pitchers have been outstanding," Jones said. "We've been scuffling, but we were battling against [Cueto]. It's unfortunate we couldn't come away with this one but it was definitely a battle."
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Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published September 30, 2012 8:45 PM