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PIT@CIN: Bucs fall on Ludwick's walk-off hit in 14th

CINCINNATI -- Faith is a hard thing to shake. Ultimately, though, sometimes all you get to shake is your head.

Clint Hurdle was doing that, very late Monday night. Countless Pirates fans were doubtless mimicking his gesture.

For the third straight game, at his first opportunity, the Pirates manager entrusted a game in the balance to his bullpen, the source of so much faith-inspiring heroics until September beckoned.

And for the third straight game, the score and the outcome went topsy-turvy.

After Jason Grilli had surrendered the eighth-inning tiebreaking runs in consecutive losses to the Cubs, Jared Hughes was called on Monday night in the seventh inning to protect brilliant Wandy Rodriguez's two-run lead.

The first batter Hughes faced roped a game-tying double, and the Reds went on to score a 14th-inning knockout, 4-3, on Ryan Ludwick's two-out RBI single off Rick van den Hurk (0-1), the sixth reliever out of the Bucs' bullpen.

Ludwick's hard grounder with runners at the corners was gloved by diving shortstop Chase d'Arnaud, but as he leaped up to attempt a throw, the ball squirted out of his bare hand. He didn't appear to have a play anywhere, anyway.

An awful lot of breathtaking baseball ensued, yet Rodriguez's departure hung over the game.

"That's the second-worst feeling a manager can have, when you make that move and it doesn't work," said Hurdle, meaning the reliever he beckons giving up a costly hit. "The worst is when you leave the pitcher in and the guy hits a home run, and then you get him and walk off. I make that move, and I have to wear it."

Somewhere on the worst-feeling list there must also be room for seeing your hitters squander chances to help out your pitchers. The day after going 0-for-11 with men in scoring position in a 4-2 loss to the Cubs, the Pirates were 2-for-14 Monday night-early Tuesday morning.

"I've heard, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger," Hurdle said.

The Pirates' opportunities to win the game before the Reds did included having the bases loaded with none out in the 14th, a worst-case scenario Alfredo Simon escaped by getting d'Arnaud on a shallow fly and Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata on consecutive infield grounders, the first of them turned into a force at home.

And if the game itself wasn't exciting enough, a little of the anticipated theatrics between the teams flashed in the eighth, when Hughes bounced a pitch off Brandon Phillips' left leg. The previous inning, Cincinnati reliever Jose Arredondo had brushed Alex Presley's chest with a pitch.

Bad blood has simmered between the teams since Aroldis Chapman plunked Andrew McCutchen with a 98-mph fastball in the opener of the Bucs' last series here. Phillips immediately got on Hughes' bad side by retrieving the ball and flipping it back to him, and after the end of that inning jawed a bit with McCutchen as the center fielder trotted off the field.

"He definitely threw the ball at me, and it upset me at the time," Hughes said. "The ball goes to the dugout after you hit somebody. It was so loud, I couldn't hear what he was saying."

The Bucs had jumped into a 3-0 lead in the fourth which the Reds neutralized by the seventh. Thus, following the strong starts of Rodriguez and Reds righty Mat Latos, it became a battle of the bullpens, the type of square-off which lately has not been to the Bucs' advantage.

McCutchen's 26th homer touched off a three-run fourth against Latos, who hadn't allowed a run in two previous starts against the Pirates, covering 13 1/3 innings.

The shot, drilled deep into the lower deck of the left-field stands, appeared to rattle Latos. He walked Alvarez with one out and, after Tabata rifled a ground-rule double that skipped the wall in straightaway center, also walked Clint Barmes to load the bases. One run scored when Rod Barajas dropped a bloop single along the right-field line, and another on Rodriguez's grounder to third.

It would prove to be Latos' lone lapse during his six innings, so it was a very good thing for the Pirates that Rodriguez was on again.

Rodriguez lost his developing no-hitter and his 16-inning scoreless streak on the same pitch, the 1-2 offering Chris Heisey hammered for a homer with one out in the fourth.

Three innings later, he lost his win on one pitch by Hughes.

Rodriguez still had his one-hitter entering the seventh, having retired eight straight men since Heisey's homer, when Joey Votto led off with a single. Two simple outs later, Todd Frazier wormed a grounder under second baseman Brock Holt's glove for another single that put the tying run on base.

Rodriguez had made 89 pitches and the batter due up, switch-hitting catcher Dioner Navarro, was 0-for-3 against him with a strikeout and two infield grounders. However, Hurdle made a move for Hughes.

"I felt very good, all night. Very comfortable with my location, and I had a good fastball," Rodriguez said. "I felt strong to finish the inning, but [Hurdle] made a decision, he wanted to double-switch."

Hurdle wanted to turn around the switch-hitting Navarro to his weaker left side. According to the manager, that was going to be Rodriguez's last inning regardless.

Navarro ripped the right-hander's 2-1 pitch into the right-field corner for a two-run double and a tie game.

"It was missed location," Hughes said of the pitch. "I left it in the middle. I was really trying to throw a sinker down and in and left it up, and when you do that, the ball doesn't move as much. He did a good job recognizing that and hitting it."

In his sixth quality start in eight for the Bucs, Rodriguez allowed three hits, was charged with three runs, walked one and struck out five.

McCutchen may never get back to that June-July level. Very few hit .405 across two months, let alone do it again. However, his second home run in as many days could have augured something. It was the first time McCutchen had homered on consecutive days since July 14-15.

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