Reds rally to sink Cubs in ninthSep 24, 2006 - 8:30 PM CINCINNATI (Ticker) -- Aaron Harang looked like the ultimate hard-luck loser on Sunday. That is until Chicago Cubs closer Ryan Dempster one-upped him.
Dempster blew his ninth save opportunity of the season, allowing the tying run to score on a wild pitch, and Scott Eyre yielded a game-winning, pinch-hit single to Royce Clayton, as the Cubs continued their miserable season with a 3-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.
Pitching magnificently through seven innings, Harang (15-11) coughed up rookie Buck Coats' first career homer that gave Chicago a 2-1 lead. It was just the third hit allowed by Harang, but Dempster's implosion prevented him from absorbing his 12th loss of the season.
"I've been (awful)," Dempster said. "Today was even worse. I put Scott (Eyre) in a bad situation. No excuses, my stuff is good and my arm feels fine. I've got to be better. I've got to be better for the next six games and the rest of my career."
Handed a 2-1 lead, Dempster (1-9) yielded a leadoff double in the ninth to Todd Hollandsworth and then uncorked two wild pitches, allowing pinch runner Ray Olmedo to score the tying run.
Since August 14, Dempster does not have a save and is 0-4.
"I haven't had a save in I don't know how long," Dempster said. "I've always been a confident guy. Maybe I cheated the baseball gods at cards. I've never quit before and I'm not going to quit now."
"We tried to use him (Dempster) in less stressful situations to get his stuff together," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "I'd like to run him out there again but I bet his confidence is down."
The Reds loaded the bases against Dempster on singles by Chris Denorfia and Scott Hatteberg and an intentional walk to Rich Aurilia. Baker then called for Eyre and Clayton won an 11-pitch duel against the lefthander, grounding a single to left to plate the winning run, as Cincinnati remained six games back of Philadelphia in the National League wild card race.
"I knew if I hooked it to third base there could be a double play," Clayton said. "I was trying to stay up the middle and he knew that. That was the strategical battle. I kept trying to hit the ball the other way and he was trying to get me to pull it."
The 6-7 Harang was overpowering for the first seven innings and ended up allowing just two runs and six hits while striking out nine. But two of those hits left the park - solo shots by Aramis Ramirez, his career-high 37th, in the fourth and Coats in the eighth.
"I thought Harang was going to have a complete game on 90 pitches," Cincinnati manager Jerry Narron said. "I wanted to give him every chance to win the game."
Harang wiggled free of a ninth-inning jam to wrap his fifth complete game of the season, tying Chris Carpenter and Brandon Webb for the National League lead. Narron let Harang pitch the ninth because he entered the inning having thrown just 81 pitches.
His 15th win was a career high and he improved to 5-1 lifetime against the Cubs, the only loss coming on April 3.
"Harang is tough, period," Baker said. "He can pitch. He's not among the leaders in strikeouts for nothing."
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