PITTSBURGH -- The Cincinnati Reds' August burst was beginning to cause a stir in the NL Central. What may have been overlooked was their NL Central rival, the Pittsburgh Pirates, have been nearly as hot.
Freddy Sanchez kept his sizzling August going with a grand slam and five RBI, and the Pirates ended the Reds' six-game winning streak with a 6-4 victory Tuesday in a doubleheader opener.
Tom Gorzelanny (13-7) gave up four runs in six innings but still got his fourth victory in five starts as Pittsburgh won for the ninth time in 12 games. Gorzelanny went 4-1 in August and has the most wins by a Pirates left-hander since Denny Neagle was 14-6 in 1996.
"We don't want to lose any games, but it's bound to happen," Reds interim manager Pete Mackanin said. "We were seemingly listless at the beginning, but it always looks that way when you're not getting hits or runs, especially with a guy like Gorzelanny. But we got right back in it."
Gorzelanny was lifted during a two-run seventh in which John Grabow came in to get the final two outs. Matt Capps pitched the ninth for his 14th save in 16 opportunities, striking out pinch-hitter Adam Dunn to end the game with runners at the corners.
"We told him there, with only David Ross left on their bench, to throw 0-and-2 pitches from the get-go," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said, meaning that Capps should work out of the strike zone. "You don't want him to beat you right here."
Dunn had seven homers in his first 12 games against Pittsburgh this season, but left two on base as the Reds stranded 13.
"We had a guy out there with a chance to put us ahead," Mackanin said.
Sanchez, last year's NL batting champion at .344, went 3-for-3 to jump his average to .311 -- the highest it has been all year. He is 42-for-110 (.382) this month, with hits in 10 of his last 11 games, and he has nine of his 11 homers since the All-Star break.
"Freddy's done everything we expected and more," Tracy said.
No wonder the Pirates are 16-10 this month, matching Boston for the most wins in the majors in August. The Pirates haven't won so many games in a month since they were 17-10 in May 2004. The Reds are 15-9 this month.
Jason Bay also hit a solo shot for the Pirates, off Elizardo Ramirez (0-2) in the fifth. The Pirates' 43 homers in August match the club's record for any month, set in August 1947, when Hall of Famers Ralph Kiner and Hank Greenberg were in the middle of their order.
Sanchez made it 1-0 when he singled in a run during the first. His grand slam, the second of his career, came after Ronny Paulino and the weak-hitting Gorzelanny singled and Jose Bautista walked to load the bases against Ramirez. Sanchez's five RBI matched his career high, set Aug. 11 at San Francisco.
"One bad inning and one pitch, he (Ramirez) gave Freddy Sanchez too good a pitch," Mackanin said. "You don't expect a grand slam from Freddy to dead center. I know he can turn on a ball, but he got into that one pretty well."
The Reds had made up 10½ games in the standings since July 2 under Mackanin, closing within 6½ games of the NL Central-leading Chicago going into the doubleheader. Maybe they took some inspiration from the 1973 Mets who, on the same date 34 years before, were in last place with a near-identical record to the Reds' 60-71 but went on to win the division and the NLCS -- beating heavily favored Cincinnati -- and reach Game 7 of the World Series.
But while the Reds have been the NL's hottest team since hiring Mackanin, who was Pittsburgh's interim manager late in the 2005 season, the Pirates have been surging, too, though they remain so far down in the NL Central standings that their flurry hasn't been noticed like Cincinnati's. The Pirates were coming off a 5-2 road trip to Colorado and Houston in which they blew a 4-1 lead Sunday in losing to the Astros 5-4, preventing a sweep.
- The Pirates played their second doubleheader this month; they split one with San Francisco on Aug. 13 at PNC Park. The Reds hadn't played a twinbill since Sept. 16, 2005, at Pittsburgh, when Mackanin was the Pirates' manager.
- Cincinnati is 29-20 under Mackanin.
- The Reds had won their last three in Pittsburgh.