Harang tosses 8-hit CG; Reds keep playoff hopes alive

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Aaron Harang did his part to keep Cincinnati's slim postseason hopes alive.

Harang pitched an eight-hitter for his National League-leading sixth complete game and the Reds beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 on Friday night.

Harang (16-11) threw 125 pitches, struck out nine and didn't walk a batter to move into a tie for the league lead in wins. He also leads the NL in strikeouts and innings pitched after becoming the first Red to throw consecutive complete games since Pete Harnisch in July 2000.

"He finished off for him a great regular season of starts," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "He pitched outstanding."

Rich Aurilia homered and drove in three runs for the Reds, who have won five of six. St. Louis beat Milwaukee 10-5 to remain 2½ games ahead of third-place Cincinnati, which is one game behind the Astros. The Reds would be eliminated from postseason contention with another loss or Cardinals win.

"[Harang] pitched really well," Aurilia said. "He got big outs when he needed them and we put enough runs on the board tonight. We banged out [13] hits and still somehow only scored five but we'll take a win any way we can."

Harang struck out the final batter of the game -- pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit -- to take the league lead in strikeouts with 216, one more than San Diego's Jake Peavy.

"It still amazes me; I'm not typically a strikeout pitcher," Harang said. "It's definitely something to be excited about."

Freddy Sanchez went 2-for-4 to raise his NL-leading batting average to .345 for the Pirates, who have lost eight in a row. Pittsburgh's Chris Duffy went 3-for-4.

Ronny Paulino singled in Sanchez in the fourth but Aurilia hit his 23rd homer in the fifth against Zach Duke (10-15) to make it 3-1. Aurilia's drive to the deepest part of the park in left-center bounced off the top of the padded wall and scored Norris Hopper,
who had walked with two outs.

"I saw the ball well, I feel like I hit the ball well tonight," Aurilia said. "He left a pitch up and out over the plate on the home run."

Aurilia singled in Hopper in the seventh, and Juan Castro
tripled and scored on a wild pitch in the eighth for Cincinnati.

With Pittsburgh in fifth in the NL Central, fans focused on Sanchez's pursuit of the batting title.

Fans were given signs that said "Go Freddy Go" and each time Sanchez came to the plate he was greeted with an ovation. He singled in the first and fourth innings, lined out sharply to left with Duffy on second and two outs in the fifth and grounded out weakly with Duffy at third in the seventh.

"It's awesome, that's the best part, when fans get involved," Sanchez said. They've come out all year. We've had a disappointing year, but they've always been there. It feels great to have them."

Florida's Miguel Cabrera went 1-for-3 to remain at .340, five points behind Sanchez with two games to play.

"I want to go out and get some hits," Sanchez said. "But at the same time you want to win, but we're not winning."

Duke allowed four runs and 12 hits with a walk in 6 2/3 innings, striking out two.

"I battled myself out there," Duke said. "I just couldn't get into a rhythm. It's definitely not how I wanted to end [the season]."

Game notes
Hopper left the game in the eighth inning with a mild strain of his right hamstring. ... The Pirates, who were shut out Thursday and played a 15-inning game Wednesday, went 22 innings without scoring a run. ... Adam Dunn's fourth-inning double snapped an 0-for-16 slump for the Reds slugger. ... Pittsburgh right-hander Matt Capps retired Edwin Encarnacion to end the seventh for his 83rd appearance -- most among major-league rookies and extending his club rookie record.