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CINCINNATI (AP) — The liner got past Jay Bruce and rolled to the wall in a big play in the eighth inning.
It has been that kind of year for Bruce and the Cincinnati Reds.
Bruce failed to track down Travis Snider's tiebreaking RBI double, and the Reds lost 3-1 to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday night.
"Like a lot of times this year, I just whiffed," Bruce said. "He hit it hard and it's not the first ball that knuckled but as I planted to redirect, I slipped."
Bruce also went 0 for 4 at the plate with three strikeouts. He is batting .217 for the season.
"He hit the crud out of the ball," Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said. "But I think if you ask Jay, he should have caught it. It was still a tough play."
Pittsburgh has won five of six and 17 of 21 overall. The Pirates are headed to the playoffs for the second straight year, while the Reds are completing a disappointing season.
Josh Harrison was aboard after a two-out single against Pedro Villareal (0-2) when Snider followed with a scorching drive to right that Bruce overran, allowing it to roll to the wall for a 2-1 Pittsburgh lead. Andrew McCutchen then hit another RBI double into the gap in left-center.
Jared Hughes (7-5) got the final two outs of the seventh for the win. Tony Watson pitched the eighth, and Mark Melancon finished for his 33rd save.
Mike Leake struck out eight in seven solid innings in his last start of the season for Cincinnati. The right-hander allowed one run — Gaby Sanchez's homer on the first pitch of the fifth — and three hits with two walks.
Leake also helped himself in the fifth. He doubled with two out and then ran through third base coach Steve Smith's stop sign on Kristopher Negron's single to center, beating McCutchen's throw with a slide that made it 1-1.
"He's legit," Price said. "He's not sneaking up on the league. He's always ready to compete and gave us a chance to win."
The 26-year-old right-hander is eligible for arbitration and hopes he can return.
"They have to decide how they want to go," Leake said. "I hope they feel that I'm an important part of the plan. I'd like to spend my career with one team."
His 11-13 record doesn't tell how effective he's been most of the season.
"It would have been a good year," Leake said. "We weren't able to string a lot of hits together, like tonight. We had 11 hits but it seems like we got one an inning."
Sanchez's drive to left-center was his seventh homer of the season and first since Aug. 14.
Pirates starter Vance Worley surrendered nine hits in 6 1-3 innings. He struck out four and walked none while throwing 74 pitches.
Pirates: Manager Clint Hurdle's lineup was delayed while he awaited an update on the condition of first baseman Ike Davis. "He has flu-like symptoms that are more than flu-like," Hurdle said. Davis did not play.
Reds: LHP Aroldis Chapman was day to day after he had trouble getting loose while logging his 35th save on Thursday, Price said.
Pirates: LHP Francisco Liriano tries Saturday for his first career win in nine regular-season starts against Cincinnati. He is 0-5.
Reds: RHP Alfredo Simon tries to improve to 3-1 in four starts against Pittsburgh this season.
Harrison extended his hitting streak to a career-high 14 games. The Cincinnati native set his previous career high of 13 earlier this season.
Leake's double was his career-high fifth of the season and his run was his career-high ninth.
Despite a rough season, Bruce needs two more homers to become the 12th player in major league history with 20 or more in his first seven seasons.