Harang gets win, hits bases-loaded single for Reds

CINCINNATI -- Aaron Harang won't have any trouble remembering this birthday.

The right-hander pitched seven innings and had a bases-loaded single during Cincinnati's decisive rally, a birthday bash that gave the Reds an 8-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Saturday and their best record in three years.

"A great birthday," manager Dusty Baker said.

Harang (3-3) had many good moments on the day he turned 31, none better than the awkward swing that produced his first hit of the season in the sixth. Cincinnati sent nine batters to the plate for five runs off Kyle Lohse (3-2) in the inning, blowing open a tie game.

"I was just trying to put something in play, trying to make something happen," Harang said.

He played the biggest role in the Reds getting a noteworthy win. With their third straight, they moved four games over .500 (17-13) for the first time since 2006.

The Reds have won their last three despite missing most of their starting infield. Third baseman Edwin Encarnacion has a broken wrist, shortstop Alex Gonzalez has pulled muscles in his side, and second baseman Brandon Phillips and first baseman Joey Votto have been sidelined by the flu.

Phillips was back in the lineup on Saturday, but Votto -- the Reds' leading hitter at .378 -- was still sick.

"I'm happy that the guys have been winning without me and Joey," said Phillips, who had a single and a double. "I'm very proud of that."

As a starter, Harang doesn't get to pitch on his birthday often -- his turn in the rotation rarely lines up that way. He knows he spent his birthday on the mound one other time, but can't remember the year or many of the details.

This one will be vivid for a long time to come.

Harang gave up three runs -- two earned -- and struck out seven. Ryan Ludwick hit a two-run homer off him in the third on one of his few bad pitches.

"I was really pleased with how I pitched," Harang said. "I got out of jams early, and I really only made one mistake. I was able to stay in there and hang tough."

Jay Bruce had a two-run shot off Lohse, who let a 2-all tie slip away quickly in the sixth. Laynce Nix and Ramon Hernandez singled home runs, and the Reds loaded the bases with two outs for Harang, an .079 career hitter who was 0 for 13 this season.

Harang took an off-balance, stiff-armed swing at Lohse's first pitch -- a high slider -- and lined it to left field to drive in two more runs. He smacked his hands together in celebration at first base, then stood there trying to subdue a smile.

"It just kind of got away there," Lohse said. "I thought I was rolling there for a while, and they put together quite an inning."

Jerry Hairston Jr. also homered for the Reds, who have scored six, six and eight runs the last three games with their makeshift lineup.

Lohse has had his two worst starts back-to-back. He gave up six runs in 4 1/3 innings of a 6-1 loss to Philadelphia on Monday, and allowed seven runs in six innings against the Reds. Cincinnati had six hits and a walk off him in the decisive sixth inning.

"They had that one inning where they made things happen," manager Tony La Russa said.

Game notes
Albert Pujols failed to reach base for the second straight game. The first baseman had reached base in each of the Cardinals' first 28 games. He's 0 for 8 with a pair of strikeouts in the series. ... The Reds gave away Votto bobbleheads, drawing their first capacity crowd since opening day. "We should have a bobblehead night every day," Phillips said. ... Gonzalez worked out before the game. Baker said a decision will be made "pretty soon" on whether to put him on the DL. Gonzalez hurt his left side on a swing last Monday. ... Bruce and Willy Taveras both extended their hitting streaks to 10 games, the longest on the Reds this season.