CINCINNATI -- The Cincinnati Reds are finding that winning record more elusive than ever.
The NL Central leaders were one strike from their 82nd victory Sunday, which would have clinched their first winning season in 10 years, but closer Francisco Cordero couldn't nail it down. Andrew McCutchen hit a three-run double in the ninth inning and the Pittsburgh Pirates stunned Cincinnati 3-1.
"I felt pretty good," said Cordero, whose blown save was his second of the three-game series. "I threw him a slider, but he got the best part of his bat on it. I'm not pitching my best right now. It's a real disappointment."
The Pirates, last in the division, loaded the bases with one out against Cordero (6-5), but pinch-hitter Jose Tabata grounded into a forceout at the plate. McCutchen then fell behind in the count 1-2 before pulling a line drive into the left-field corner.
"When I got down 0-2, I was thinking that I'd do anything I can to get on base," McCutchen said. "I knew what he threw. I've faced him a few times. All the pitches were sliders. After you've seen it a few times, you recognize it out of his hand. He left it up and I got the good part of the bat on it.
"We battled the whole game. We got to their bullpen and pretty much took advantage."
Pirates manager John Russell pointed out that the rally was Pittsburgh's third of the three-game series.
"To do some of the things we've done this series is a good sign," he said. "I know we lost the first two games, but the guys have competed well. That whole inning, guys put together great at-bats. We got to Cordero twice this series. That's not easy to do."
Cordero also gave up a lead Friday in a game the Reds ended up winning 4-3 in 12 innings. Nick Masset inherited a 3-0 lead and gave up four in the eighth on Saturday in a game the Reds won 5-4 in 10 innings.
Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker thought nobody felt worse than Cordero.
"It's terrible for Coco," Baker said. "We need him. He's our closer. Nobody else is ready. People are hollering for somebody else, but what if you bring somebody in and he doesn't do the job? The Phillies won a World Series with Brad Lidge, and he blew several [saves]."
The Reds, who have a six-game lead over second-place St. Louis, are trying to secure their first season of .500 or better since 2000, when they were 85-77 in Jack McKeon's last season as manager.
Cincinnati right-hander Johnny Cueto, who was 1/3 in his previous five starts, gave up a two-out single to Neil Walker in the first inning and didn't allow another hit until Pedro Alvarez's single leading off the seventh.
Cueto didn't yield more than one baserunner in any inning until the seventh, when he gave up two hits before striking out Ronny Cedeno to end the threat. That left Cueto with seven strikeouts, one in each inning, and just two walks.
Pittsburgh left-hander Brian Burres was nearly as effective, giving up four hits and one walk with six strikeouts in seven innings.
Joey Votto, who hit a game-ending homer Saturday, drove in the first run Sunday, teaming up with Orlando Cabrera on back-to-back doubles to start the fourth inning. Votto pushed his season total to 102 RBIs.
Votto moved into a tie with St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols for the NL RBI lead with 102. The Cardinals were scheduled to play at Atlanta later Sunday.
Walker extended his hitting streak to 18 games by beating out a slow chopper to third in the first inning. His streak is the longest by a Pittsburgh rookie since Rennie Stennett's 18-game streak in 1971.
Pete Rose received a standing ovation when he and members of his family were shown on the video board sitting in a luxury box. Rose, banned from baseball in 1989 for betting on games, was honored Saturday on the 25th anniversary of him becoming the career hits leader. He held up a cardboard sign bearing the hastily written message, "Reds Fans R The Greatest." ... Cincinnati OF Jay Bruce, sidelined since Aug. 30 with pain in his right side, could start Tuesday, Baker said. Bruce hit five homers in his last four games before the injury.