- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 12, 2009

CINCINNATI (AP) - Aaron Harang threw a three-hitter, Brandon Phillips hit a two-run homer and the Cincinnati Reds overcame a triple play by the Pittsburgh Pirates in a 2-0 victory on Sunday.

Harang (1-1) faced just three batters over the minimum while pitching his sixth shutout and 12th complete game. The right-hander threw 108 pitches, 80 for strikes, while improving to 12-5 in his career against the Pirates.

It was the first complete-game shutout of the year in the majors, and the earliest for Cincinnati since Pete Harnisch threw one against the San Diego Padres on April 4, 1999.

The Reds managed only two runs and five hits over six innings against Pittsburgh right-hander Ian Snell (0-2), but had a chance to add to their lead in the eighth inning with Jay Bruce on first and Brandon Phillips on second.

Edwin Encarnacion hit a blooper into short left that was easily caught by Jack Wilson, who threw to Freddy Sanchez at second base to double up Phillips. By then, Bruce was already at second, and Sanchez threw to first baseman Adam LaRoche to complete the triple play.

It was the first triple play for the Pirates since Aug. 10, 1993, at St. Louis, and the first time the Reds had hit into a triple play since April 21, 2007, against Philadelphia.

The Reds got the only runs they needed in the first when Willy Taveras led off with a double to left. Phillips followed two outs later with his first home run of the season as the Reds took the first lead of a game for the first time this season.

The Pirates also had a chance to score in the first after Nyjer Morgan blooped a double to short right-center that hit off the base of Taveras’s glove as he tried to make a diving catch.

Pittsburgh wound up stranding Morgan at second as Harang opened a stretch in which he retired 13 of 14 batters. He hit Morgan with a pitch with two outs in the third inning, but caught him trying to steal second base.

Harang, who lost on opening day despite giving up just one run in five innings, wound up striking out nine without issuing a walk.

The league leader in losses last season after going 6-17, Harang seemed to get stronger as the game went along, striking out the side in the sixth inning and punctuating a dominant effort with his third strikeout of Nate McLouth to end the game.

Notes:@ The Reds left after Sunday’s game for their longest trip of the season, 11 days and 10 games at Milwaukee, Houston and Chicago. “Two places we’ve got to improve on from last year are winning on the road and in our division,” manager Dusty Baker said. “We can do both at the same time.” … Phillips’ home run was his first since last Aug. 22. He missed the last 17 games of last season with a broken right index finger. Phillips became the first Red other than Joey Votto to homer this season. … Pittsburgh 3B Andy LaRoche is hitless in his first 14 at-bats of the season. He and his brother, Adam, are a combined 3-for-36.

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