PITTSBURGH -- The Cincinnati Reds seemed out of this one early. They were down by six runs in the first inning and a sixth consecutive loss looked all but certain.
Then maybe they realized who they were playing.
Ken Griffey Jr.'s soft line drive single drove in two runs during a four-run seventh inning and the Reds ended a five-game losing streak, rallying from the early deficit to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 9-8 Thursday.
"There was no panic at all -- the last thing we needed to do was panic," catcher Jason LaRue said. "We needed to go out and get some hits, get guys over and get them into scoring position and do the little things. Today, we were able to capitalize on that."
One night after former Pirates starter Bronson Arroyo disparaged his former club by saying the Reds had no business losing to "this team" and "that lineup," the Reds refused to do exactly that.
LaRue and Austin Kearns homered as the Reds withstood Jason Bay's grand slam in a six-run first to deny the Pirates their first three-game sweep of any opponent since July 2004. The Reds had been outscored 28-10 during their losing streak and 16-5 in the first two games of the series.
"We showed a little bit of the character of this team, not giving up," Griffey said.
And the Pirates showed why they are 13-28 overall and 4-11 in one-run games.
"They're all tough," manager Jim Tracy said when asked if it was his club's toughest loss of the season. "You can look back at any one of them where if you make a play or make a pitch or get a key base hit, you win the game. But you've got to put it behind you and move on."
The Reds, who had dropped nine of 13, trailed 7-5 before Scott Hatteberg and Edwin Encarnacion started the seventh with doubles against rookie reliever Matt Capps (1-1). Ryan Freel's second RBI single of the game tied it at 7 before Damaso Marte walked pinch-hitter Javier Valentin and Felipe Lopez to load the bases.
Griffey's liner then fell inches from a diving Bay in left, scoring Freel and Valentin. The Reds had 16 hits after getting only 30 in their previous five games.
"Right there, I'm trying not to strike out. He's been tough on lefties, so you've got to be ready," Griffey said. "He got the pitch in there a little bit but I was able to get it far enough to the outfield -- and close enough to the infield."
Bay initially expected to make the catch, and was surprised upon watching a replay that the ball fell a few inches in front of him.
"I thought I was closer than I was," he said.
The not-always reliable Reds bullpen limited the Pirates to two runs over the final six innings after starter Dave Williams gave up six runs and seven hits over three innings.
Matt Belisle (2-0) pitched two scoreless innings for the victory before David Weathers came in for the seventh and eighth innings, allowing a run following Jose Castillo's leadoff double in the eighth.
Todd Coffey pitched the ninth for his second career save and his first since last Aug. 28, also against Pittsburgh. Freddy Sanchez doubled for his third hit, but Coffey retired Jeromy Burnitz and Ronny Paulino on grounders with pinch-runner Nate McLouth on third.
"I got lucky and some balls were hit right at people," Coffey said. "You've got to love it."
Long before that, Williams allowed the first eight batters he faced to reach base by giving up four singles, Bay's second career grand slam, walking one and hitting a batter. Jose Hernandez reached when catcher LaRue couldn't handle his bunt in front of the plate, drawing an error, and Castillo had a run-scoring single.
After that, Pirates starter Victor Santos -- winless in seven starts since April 9 -- gradually began giving the lead away. LaRue came out of a 1-for-18 slump with a two-run homer in the second, one of his career-high four hits, and Lopez ran his hitting streak to 12 games with an RBI single in the fourth.
Kearns hit his eighth homer deep into the lower left-field stands ahead of Freel's RBI single in the fifth that cut the Pirates' lead to 6-5. Burnitz hit his seventh homer in the bottom of the inning, making it 7-5.
Williams' ERA climbed from 6.32 to 7.20 in his first career appearance against his former club. ... The Pirates had 11 hits, giving them 10 or more in six of seven games. ... Pirates SS Jack Wilson (hamstring) made his first start since May 7. ... The Pirates are 1-14 against left-handed starters. ... The Pirates' last three-game sweep came July 23-25, 2004, against the Reds in Pittsburgh.