2 HRs propel Reds to 5-3 win, 3-1 lead


PITTSBURGH -- When the National League Championship Series shifted to Three Rivers Stadium, Chris Sabo said: "Our offense is due. We haven't hit anything in the first two games."

L The Cincinnati Reds third baseman turned out to be a sage.

After batting .175 without a home run in their own park, the Red have rolled out the long ball in Pittsburgh.

Last night, they hit two more homers against Bob Walk, includin the game-winning two-run shot by Sabo, and scored a 5-3 victory that placed them in command of the series.

The Western Division champions, now ahead, 3-1, in the series can finish off the Pirates tonight in a park in which they have a 6-2 record this season and have won nine of their past 12 games.

A crowd of 50,461, still 8,000 shy of capacity, watched Sabo pul his homer about 10 feet fair down the left-field line after a leadoff single by Hal Morris in the seventh.

It was the fourth Cincinnati homer in the two games here. Sabo hit 25 during the regular season, the most by a Reds third baseman since Tony Perez had 40 in 1970.

The Pirates didn't go down without a battle, but some illogical strategy doomed their eighth-inning rally.

After Jay Bell homered to knock out winner Jose Rijo, Bobby Bonilla doubled off the left-center-field wall against Cincinnati closer Randy Myers.

Billy Hatcher fell against the wall trying to catch the ball and with but one out, Bonilla tried to reach third. But Eric Davis picked up the carom and threw out Bonilla for the second out.

Barry Bonds followed with a single to right, then stole secon after the Reds went to Joe Oliver behind the plate in an attempt to prevent just that.

But Pirates manager Jim Leyland allowed Sid Bream to ba against the left-handed Myers with right-handed hitting Gary Redus and Carmelo Martinez on the bench. Bream struck out, ending the threat.

The Reds added an insurance run in the ninth against reliever Ted Power on pinch hitter Luis Quinones' sacrifice fly with the bases loaded.

The Pirates had led for only three innings the entire series befor scoring a run in the first off Rijo, who has not beaten them this year.

It was the first time the Reds had not scored first in the series.

Wally Backman, starting at third for Jeff King, began it with a double into the left-center-field gap, and Bell moved him to third with a two-strike grounder to the right side after failing to sacrifice.

Backman scored on Andy Van Slyke's grounder to first basema Morris. It was only the third RBI by the Pirates' outfield with Bonds, the league's probable Most Valuable Player, being shut out.

The inning continued when Bonilla walked, but was thrown out trying to steal with Bonds at the plate.

Walk, scorched for a three-run first inning in Game 1, allowed only one hit through three in his encore appearance, but encountered serious trouble in the fourth when the Reds went ahead, 2-1.

Paul O'Neill, out of the lineup in Game 3 against left-hander Zane Smith, homered into the right-field bleachers to tie the game, giving him his fourth RBI of the series.

The assault continued as Davis singled to left and Morris singled to right with one out. Sabo followed with a sacrifice fly to push the Reds ahead, but Jeff Reed grounded out to end the inning.

Pittsburgh bounced right back to a 2-2 tie on a looping single by Van Slyke, his stolen base and a two-out double by Bream, at that point 3-for-4 with a walk against Rijo in this series.

Mike LaValliere was walked intentionally to get to right-handed hitting Jose Lind, who foiled the strategy by singling to center field.

But ex-Pirate Hatcher made a perfect throw to throw out Bream (( attempting to score.

Rijo and Walk settled down in the fifth and sixth, as each side managed one baserunner in those innings.

The Pirates were attempting to defy history. On 10 of 15 occasions, the team that took a 2-1 lead went on to take the series.

Walk went into the game with a 7-3 regular-season record against Cincinnati, plus the victory in Game 1 of this series.

Rijo said before the start that he still "feels almost unbeatable. With four days' rest, I think I'll be even stronger."

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