Neagle limited his former Pittsburgh teammates to one hit in seven-plus innings his longest start in an injury-interrupted season and the Cincinnati Reds won again on the road, 4-2 Monday night.
"I'm getting better, but I'm still not there as far as sharpness and control," said Neagle, 3-0 since coming off the disabled list July 30. "I know that's tough to say with the results I had, but I know when I'm on my game. It's really a good sign that I can win when I'm still not there."
The Reds win most of the time when they are anywhere but home. They are 37-16 on the road, a record better than the home mark of every major league team except Oakland, which was 40-17 going into Monday night's game.
Neagle had pitched 11 2-3 innings in two starts since his second trip to the disabled list caused by a weak left shoulder. He allowed only Warren Morris' two-run homer in the fifth following a rare breakdown by the Reds' defense.
Neagle (3-3) had pitched four hitless innings when Ed Sprague popped up starting the fifth. First baseman Sean Casey, who grew up in Pittsburgh and was cheered on by a arge group of fans, waved off second baseman Pokey Reese only to pull off the ball at the last moment.
Reese backed off, too, and the ball fell between them as Sprague reached second. One pitch later, Morris hit his 11th homer.
Reese and Casey talked animatedly between pitches for several batters, apparently to straighten out their communication problems.
Neagle, traded by the Pirates to Atlanta in 1996, settled down again after the Morris homer to retire nine consecutive hitters before walking Adrian Brown leading off the eighth.
"Denny Neagle certainly has been a blessing for us," manager Jack McKeon said. "That's three in a row, isn't it? He got us deep enough to give the bullpen a breather. He was nasty."
Neagle didn't seem happy when pitching coach Don Gullett came out to replace him, muttering a few words before leaving.
But he insisted afterward he wasn't unhappy at being yanked, saying catcher Eddie Taubensee told him between innings he was losing his control.
"The catcher is usually the best judge. I asked him what he thought and he said the location was off a little but the sneakiness was still there," Neagle said. "We just decided to go hitter by hitter."
Bothered by left shoulder problems nearly all season, Neagle had not lasted longer than six innings in eight starts. He is 2-2 in his career against the Pirates.
"He did what Denny Neagle does," Pirates manager Gene Lamont said. "He changed speeds and was tough on right-handed hitters. It would be a real boost to those guys if he is healthy."
The Reds, 41-12 when they score first, quickly took a 1-0 lead in the first on Cameron's leadoff double and shortstop Nunez's throwing error on Dmitri Young's grounder.
Ritchie, a winner in four of his previous five starts, later yielded Aaron Boone's double to start the fifth, then hit Reese with a pitch. After Neagle bunted the runners up, Cameron singled in two runs and Young followed with an RBI single.
The Pirates put two on with onout in the ninth, but Williamson struck out Sprague and Morris swinging.
"He threw me two hard sliders, then got me on a split-finger fastball," Morris said. "It was nasty. It looked like a knuckleball."
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