Series: Game 3 of 4

Cincinnati leads 2-1 (as of 9/24)

Game 1: Friday, September 22
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in 5
Game 2: Saturday, September 23
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Game 3: Sunday, September 24
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Game 4: Monday, September 25
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Cubs 2

(63-93, 30-50 away)

Reds 3

(76-79, 41-39 home)

    1:15 PM ET, September 24, 2006

    Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, Ohio 

    123456789 R H E
    CHC 000100010 2 6 0
    CIN 000100002 3 9 1

    W: A. Harang (15-11)

    L: R. Dempster (1-9)

    Clayton's pinch-hit single in ninth lifts Reds over Cubs

    CINCINNATI (AP) -- Cincinnati almost wasted Aaron Harang's great effort Sunday, then Royce Clayton stepped in and rescued the Reds.

    Clayton's pinch-hit single on the 11th pitch of his at-bat in the ninth inning drove in Chris Denorfia and lifted Cincinnati over the Chicago Cubs 3-2 Sunday.

    Elias Says
    Royce Clayton
    The Reds beat the Cubs in walk-off fashion when Royce Clayton delivered the winning run with a pinch-hit single on the 11th pitch of his at-bat against Scott Eyre. It was the longest plate appearance (in terms of the number of pitches) that resulted in a game-ending hit since May 11, 2005, when Derrek Lee smacked a walk-off homer on the 11th pitch from the Mets' Heath Bell to give the Cubs a 4-3 victory in 10 innings.

    • For more Elias Says, Click here

    Clayton hit for Dewayne Wise with one out and the bases loaded in the ninth. He grounded a Scott Eyre pitch through the Cubs' drawn-in infield to cap Cincinnati's two-run rally in its last at-bat.

    "I was just up there trying to battle," Clayton said. "I knew if I hooked one to third base, it could be a double play, so I was trying to stay up the middle. [Eyre] knew it, too. That was the strategical battle. I was trying to go the other way, he was trying to make me pull the ball."

    The Cubs led 2-1 in the ninth but Ryan Dempster (1-9) had his ninth blown save of the season. Pinch-hitter Todd Hollandsworth led off with a double and Dempster uncorked two wild pitches that allowed pinch-runner Ray Olmedo to score.

    "I put Scott in a bad situation," said Dempster, who hasn't had a save since Aug. 14 in a 3-0 win at Houston.

    Denorfia then singled to left and moved to third on Scott Hatteberg's base hit. Dempster issued an intentional walk to Rich Aurilia and was relieved by Eyre, who gave up Clayton's hit.

    "That was a professional at-bat," said Reds manager Jerry Narron, whose team improved to 41-39 at Great American Ball Park and guaranteed a second consecutive winning home season. "I don't know how many pitches it was, but any time you have a 10-pitch at-bat, it's huge."

    Aaron Harang (15-11) allowed six hits in his fifth complete game of the season, tied for the most in the National League. He also struck out nine and didn't walk a batter, extending to 79 his streak of consecutive starts without walking more than three batters -- the fourth-longest current streak in the major leagues. He threw 87 of his 110 pitches for strikes.

    He wiggled out of a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the ninth with the help of third baseman Edwin Encarnacion, who flagged down a chopper up the line by rookie Buck Coats and hustled to tag third base for the inning-ending forceout.

    "I didn't have that many pitches going into the ninth," Harang said. "They were battling me. For (Narron) to let me stay out there and get the win was huge."

    "I thought he was going to have a complete game with 90 pitches," Narron said. "I looked up there in the sixth and he had something like 60 pitches and 10 balls. I was going to give him every chance in the world to win that game."

    Aramis Ramirez lined the first pitch he saw from Harang in the fourth inning 389 feet into the left-center field seats for his career-high 37th homer. He hit 36 in 2004, his first full season with Chicago after being acquired from Pittsburgh in the middle of the 2003 season.

    Ramirez also tied Houston's Lance Berkman for the most home runs at Great American Ball Park by an opposing player with 12.

    The Reds tied it in the bottom half when Norris Hopper's groundout to second scored Encarnacion, but Coats gave the Cubs the lead in the eighth with his first career homer in his first major league start.

    Cubs starter Juan Mateo, who left his last start on Sept. 15 against Cincinnati after three hitless innings with lower back stiffness, allowed a run and three hits in five innings Sunday. He struck out four and walked four.

    "Mateo did a good job in his first time out in a while," Cubs manager Dusty Baker said. "We got him out of there because we didn't want his back flaring up again."

    Game notes

    Reds 1B Hatteberg's fifth-inning error snapped at 100 his streak of consecutive games without an error, the longest streak in the major leagues for a first baseman this season. The error was his first since May 5 at Arizona. ... CF Juan Pierre stole second base in the first inning to become the first Cubs player in 100 years with more than 55 stolen bases in a season. Frank Chance had 57 stolen bases in 1906. ... Reds LF Adam Dunn was ejected by plate umpire Jeff Nelson after arguing about a called third strike in the first inning. The ejection was the second of Dunn's career and first since June 13, 2003, when he was ejected for charging Phillies pitcher Carlos Silva.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press