CINCINNATI – A broken-bat grounder. A low throw. A dropped ball. A lot of things went right to help the Cincinnati Reds break out of their deepest slump of the season.
They'll take it all.
Francisco Cordero blew a two-run lead in the ninth, but the Reds recovered on Jonny Gomes' bases-loaded grounder in the 12th inning Friday night, getting a slump-busting 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The NL Central leaders had dropped a season-high five in a row, whittling their lead over St. Louis from eight to five games. The Reds' comeback win and the Cardinals' 8-6 loss in Atlanta rebuilt the cushion to six.
"It's been a while since we celebrated," manager Dusty Baker said. "It feels like a month."
The slump lasted only a week. It ended with more drama.
Chris Heisey started the 12th with a bunt single off Wilfredo Ledezma (0-2), who then hit Joey Votto. Scott Rolen singled off Joel Hanrahan to load the bases. Gomes broke his bat on a soft grounder to shortstop Ronny Cedeno, whose low throw to the plate bounced off the mitt of catcher Chris Snyder for an error, allowing Heisey to score.
"Bases loaded, nobody out, put it in play and anything's possible," Gomes said. "I shattered my bat."
Plate umpire Tim Timmons was ready to call Heisey out when he saw the ball drop from Snyder's glove.
"I botched it," Snyder said. "Inexcusable. I just clanked it. Ronny did everything he could. That's a tough play on his end. I had to pick him up. I didn't do it."
Jordan Smith (2-2) retired the last two Pirates.
The Reds had to go 12 innings — matching their longest game of the season — to pull it out after Cordero failed.
Cordero came on with a 3-1 lead in the ninth and let it slip away in 15 pitches. He gave up singles to four of his five batters, including run-scoring hits by Jose Tabata and Pedro Alvarez. It was Cordero's seventh blown save in 42 chances, ending his streak of 11 straight.
"To (Cordero's) credit, he hasn't been out there in six days," Baker said. "Before that, he was throwing great."
Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman pitched the 11th, fanning two of the three Pirates. Eight of his 10 pitches hit triple digits on the radar gun, topping out at 103 mph.
The Reds have won 19 of their last 25 games against the Pirates, who have clinched their record 18th straight losing season. With 80 wins, Cincinnati is on the verge of emerging from its longest losing streak in a half-century — no winning record since 2000.
Until Cordero's meltdown, right-hander Homer Bailey was in line to win his sixth straight against the Pirates. The right-hander struck out a career-high nine in seven innings, allowing only Snyder's solo homer.
Bailey is 5-0 in six career starts against Pittsburgh with a 1.52 ERA. Five of his 15 career wins are against Pittsburgh.
The Reds scored three runs with two outs in the third inning off left-hander Paul Maholm. Rolen had an RBI double, Drew Stubbs singled for a 2-1 lead, and Paul Janish singled home another run. Janish, filling in at shortstop while Orlando Cabrera recovers from a strained abdomen, has hit safely in a season-high seven games.
Pittsburgh's Neil Walker turned 25 and singled off Cordero in the ninth, extending his career-best hitting streak to 16 games. It's the longest by a Pirates rookie since Rennie Stennett hit in 18 straight in 1971.
Votto turned 27 and went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. He was also hit by a pitches twice.
NOTES: The Pirates released INF Aki Iwamura, who batted .182 in 54 games. C Erik Kratz cleared waivers and was assigned outright to the minors. ... The Reds activated OF Jim Edmonds (strained abdominal muscle) and RH Mike Leake (tired pitching shoulder) off the 15-day DL. Leake won't pitch for now, but could be used to hit or run. ... Bench coach Chris Speier coached third base in place of Mark Berry, who had a sore back.