Andrew McCutchen (22) sits on the bat rack with his game-worn jersey on his shoulder while waiting to give his jersey to a fan as part of end-of-season fan appreciation after a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Pittsburgh Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. The Reds won 11-3. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
PITTSBURGH (AP) – Rookie Billy Hamilton got three hits and stole two more bases, and the Cincinnati Reds routed Pittsburgh 11-3Sunday to tie the Pirates for the NL wild-card lead.
The Reds and Pirates each have magic numbers of two to close out Washington and clinch a playoff spot. Cincinnati and Pittsburgh trail NL Central leader St. Louis by 2 1-2 games, pending the Cardinals’ night game at Milwaukee.
Jay Bruce hit a three-run double and Todd Frazier followed with a homer that capped a five-run burst in the first inning. Bronson Arroyo (14-11) made it stand up, lasting five innings to win for the first time in nearly a month.
Neil Walker hit his 13th homer of the season, but Pittsburgh stumbled in its home finale.
The Reds took two of three this weekend, and have won five of six overall. The Pirates went 5-6 in their final homestand.
Pedro Alvarez (24) warms up on deck during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds in Pittsburgh Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Hamilton kept creating havoc on the bases. A record-setting basestealer in the minors, he is 12 for 12 on swipe tries since his late-season promotion from Triple-A.
Hamilton doubled and scored twice. He is 6 for 14 and has scored nine times as a major leaguer.
Bruce had four RBIs and Chris Heisey added three hits while driving in two runs.
Jeff Locke (10-7) was tagged in the first inning and didn’t come out for the second.
After morphing from fifth starter to improbable All-Star, Locke fell to 2-5 with a 6.12 ERA in the second half of the season.
Locke’s next turn in the rotation is scheduled for Saturday in Cincinnati, but an off-day on Thursday gives the Pirates some flexibility with their rotation for a series that could have serious playoff implications.
After Bruce doubled to the gap in left-center field, Frazier followed with his 18th homer, a two-run shot to the deepest part of PNC Park.
Cincinnati pushed its advantage to 7-0 in the second on an RBI double by Heisey and a sacrifice fly from Brandon Phillips off reliever Jeanmar Gomez.
Staked to such a huge cushion, Arroyo worked quickly if not exactly effectively. Walker hit his third homer in four games leading off the third and pinch-hitter Travis Snider did the same in the fifth.
Pittsburgh’s best chance to make it close came later in that inning when Walker’s double put runners in scoring position with no outs. Arroyo surrendered only a sacrifice fly by Justin Morneau that made it 7-3. The veteran right-hander gave up three runs on five hits in five innings, walking two and striking out three.
Pittsburgh begins a three-game set in Chicago against the Cubs on Monday while Cincinnati heads home to face the New York Mets. The rivals will reconvene at Great American Ball Park on Friday with home-field in the wild card game likely at stake, perhaps even more if the Cardinals falter.
NOTES: Pirates C Russell Martin left the game in the fifth with soreness in his left knee … Cincinnati pitchers struck out six to lift their season total to 1,249, a club record … Reds manager Dusty Baker said RHP Johnny Cueto will have a 100-pitch limit when he starts on Monday against the Mets. Cueto missed more than two months with a strained right lat before returning to pitch five scoreless innings last week against Houston … Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said Jason Grilli is back as the full-time closer. Grilli picked up his first save since July 21 when he recorded the final three outs of a 4-2 win over the Reds on Saturday night. Grilli missed more than six weeks with a strained right forearm … A sellout crowd of 38,699 showed up for the final regular season game at PNC Park. The 23 sellouts this season are the second-highest total in the stadium’s 12-year history, as is the total attendance of 2.26 million.