Few of Pete Harnisch's career wins were more dramatic or emphatic than No. 99.
Harnisch held Pittsburgh hitless into the seventh inning, tied his career high with 12 strikeouts and wound up sharing a one-hitter as the Cincinnati Reds beat the Pirates 1-0 Thursday night.
Sean Casey homered off Kris Benson (10-10) with one out in the bottom of the eighth, moving the Reds back into first place in the NL Central by percentage points over Houston. The Astros lost to Milwaukee 6-5 earlier in the day.
And he's done it with a rotator cuff that has some fraying and may need surgery after the season.
"He's an inspiration to the other guys when he's not 100 percent physically sound and he goes out there and pitches the way he does," manager Jack McKeon said.
He was so good Thursday that the Pirates had a hard time believing there was anything wrong with him.
"He'll have to show me some pictures or something before I'll believe his arm is hurting," manager Gene Lamont said.
Harnisch has the MRI results to prove it. He's felt better in his recent starts, though the shoulder is still weak when he starts each inning.
"I thought I warmed up poorly," Harnisch said. "I don't know if there's a magic number of pitches or what, but after a while I started to feel OK. It seems like every inning I start out slow but once I get going and get four or five pitches into the inning, I feel all right."
Harnisch struck out 12 for the sixth time in his career and didn't allo a hit until Mike Benjamin led off the seventh with a single up the middle. It was the only hit he allowed in eight innings, along with a pair of walks.
Harnisch swiped his hand across the mound in frustration after Benjamin's grounder eluded his glove and bounced into center field. The only other time he's come that close to a no-hitter was in 1993, when Chicago's Mark Grace singled off him with two outs in the seventh.
In his start last Saturday against Philadelphia, Harnisch had Rob Ducey's similar comebacker deflect off his knee, allowing him to get the out.
"I don't get too many of those," Harnisch said. "I kick a few of them. I thought I had it, but my glove wasn't as low as I thought it was. I usually deflect those somewhere."
Harnisch left after the eighth inning, having thrown 118 pitches. Brian Giles drew a two-out walk off Scott Williamson in the ninth and stole second before Dale Sveum struck out on a pitch in the dirt to end it, giving Williamson his 17th save.
Harnisch shut down a Pirates offense that hit five homers Wednesday night and outpitched Benson, who held the Reds scoreless on six hits before Casey hit his 20th homer to right with one out in the eighth.
Benson hung a full-count changeup to Casey, who flew out to the warning track in the third inning.
"It came down to one pitch," Benson said. "I made one bad pitch and it cost us the game. I had a lot of confidence in that pitch I threw to Casey and just got it up in the strike zone."
Benson gave up seven hits in eight innings, matched his career high with eight strikeouts and escaped a threat in the fifth. Harnisch led off with a liner to left and hustled into second with a hard slide for double, but wound up stranded at third.
Casey prolonged the no-hit drama by grabbing Sveum's liner to first to end the fourth inning. He also made a nice play on Al Martin's bad-hop grounder in the sixth, reaching for the final hop before making the play himself. Harnisch gave Casey a thumbs-up.
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