By JOE KAY Baseball Writer
CINCINNATI — A Reds team that hadn’t pulled off a big comeback all season now has two in one week. And it’s been some kind of week.
Two starters got hurt, three infielders went on the disabled list, and the wins kept coming.
Brayan Pena’s pinch-hit single in the eighth inning completed another late rally by the Reds, who overcame more injuries on Friday and beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 6-5 to keep their momentum going toward the All-Star break.
Pena described this one as a “championship effort.”
“This is a huge victory for us,” he said. “This is the kind of victory that shows what we can do. When we got behind, everybody kept pushing each other.”
Down 5-1 after six innings, the Reds scored twice with the help of third baseman Pedro Alvarez’s throwing error in the seventh and added three more in the eighth. Cincinnati is 7-2 on its 11-game homestand leading into the break.
Devin Mesoraco homered with two outs off left-hander Tony Watson (5-1) in the eighth, and the Reds put together four more singles, with RBI hits by Ramon Santiago and Pena completing Cincinnati’s second big comeback of the week. Cincinnati overcame a five-run deficit to beat the Cubs in the second game of a doubleheader on Tuesday.
Watson came in with a 0.84 ERA having allowed only one homer and four earned runs all season.
“I don’t want to say it came out of nowhere, but to come back from two outs and nobody on against a Tony Watson who’s throwing missiles, I can’t say enough,” manager Bryan Price said.
Curtis Partch (1-0), called up earlier in the day, escaped a bases-loaded threat in the eighth.
Aroldis Chapman fanned the side in the ninth for his 20th save in 22 chances. He has at least one strikeout in his last 40 appearances, passing Bruce Sutter for the record by a major league reliever since 1900.
Andrew McCutchen and Alvarez homered for a 4-0 lead off Cincinnati’s Mat Latos, who left after only five innings because of back spasms. It was the shortest of his six starts since returning from torn knee cartilage and a strained pitching forearm.
Latos ran hard to first to try to beat out a bunt in the second inning. His back started acting up when he went back to the mound.
“When I was bending over to get the sign for the first batter in the third inning, all of a sudden it felt like one of the middle infielders came up and stabbed me in the back,” Latos said. “It calmed down a little bit for two more innings.”
The Reds have been hit hard by injuries in the past week.
First baseman Joey Votto is on the DL indefinitely with a thigh injury. Second baseman Brandon Phillips tore a ligament in his left thumb and had surgery on Friday. Skip Schumaker was expected to help fill in at second base, but he went on the 7-day concussion list.
Starter Homer Bailey slightly strained his right knee on Thursday, but is expected to make his next turn. Now, it’s Latos who is a question.
Billy Hamilton had a sore hamstring on Thursday and was relegated to pinch-hitting during a 6-4, 12-inning loss to the Cubs. He was back in the lineup on Friday and produced a run right away.
He led off with a bunt toward first baseman Gaby Sanchez, pulling up and whirling his arms as he dodged the tag and then lunged for the base, touching it safely with his hand. He scored from first on Zack Cozart’s double.
NOTES: Mike Leake (7-7), who has won his last five decisions against the Pirates, faces Charlie Morton (5-9) on Saturday. ... Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said RHP Gerrit Cole won’t be ready to rejoin the rotation when he’s eligible to come off the DL on July 20. Cole has a sore muscle in his right side. ... Neil Walker was 0 for 3 with a walk, ending his 12-game hitting streak. ... Alvarez’s 15 homers rank second behind Cincinnati’s Todd Frazier (16) for most by an NL third baseman. ... The Reds optioned C Tucker Barnhart to Triple-A Louisville and called up right-handed relievers Carlos Contreras and Partch.