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Josh Harrison has stellar night as Pirates beat Reds, gain playoff ground

Josh Harrison has stellar night as Pirates beat Reds, gain playoff ground Photo:

On a night when he received the team's Heart and Hustle Award, Josh Harrison put together quite a highlight reel. On both offense and defense, he played a crucial part in helping the Pirates beat the Reds, 2-1 to gain ground in their quest for the postseason. 

In the field, Harrison made a trio of stellar defensive plays, the first two of which helped starter Edinson Volquez keep a no-hit bid intact through six innings in what was a scoreless game at the time. In the fourth, he made a diving stop on Todd Frazier's groundball in the hole, quickly returning to his feet to make the throw to first. In the sixth, after speedster Billy Hamilton walked, stole second and took third on a throwing error by catcher Russell Martin, Harrison snagged a shoestring-level line drive off the bat of Brandon Phillips, ending the inning.

Volquez started the seventh by yielding his first two hits of the night, singles to Devin Mesoraco and Jay Bruce,, but Harrison helped him clean up the mess via another diving stop, one that turned into a double play:

 The Reds put the game's first run across in the eighth inning thanks to a Hamilton single and steal, a Phillips hit-by-pitch — which spelled the end of Volquez's strong outing — and then another single by Mesoraco, this time off reliever Tony Watson. Phillips was out at home trying to score on the play.

In the bottom of the frame, with starter Mike Leake having yielded to reliever Jonathan Broxton, Andrew Lambo reached on an error by Phillips, and then Harrison drove a ball off the wall in the right field corner for a game-tying triple — his third hit in four at-bats for the game — then scored what proved to be the winning run on Jose Tabata's ensuing single. Have yourself a night, J-Hay.

The tour de force lifted Harrison's already-impressive line to .308/.342/.504; he passed Andrew McCutchen (.306/.401/.535) for the team lead in batting average, and is second on the Bucs in slugging percentage — not too shabby for a utilityman who entered the season with a .250/.282/.367 line through his first three major league seasons, and who has started games at no less than five different positions this year. Lately, Harrison’s strong play at third base has given manager Clint Hurdle an appealing alternative to Pedro Alvarez, whose throwing struggles have forced him into a crash course at first base, one that's on hold due to a left foot sprain suffered on Tuesday.

With the win, the Pirates (70-64) picked up ground in both the division race and the Wild Card. St. Louis and Milwaukee both lost, leaving the Bucs three games back in the NL Central and 1 1/2 back in the Wild Card race.

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