Sanchez drove in five runs in the opener, then tripled and scored the winning run in the eighth inning of the second game to give the Pirates a 3-2 victory and doubleheader sweep Tuesday night that slowed the previously streaking Reds.
The Reds had won six in a row and nine of 11, only to be swept by Pittsburgh in a doubleheader for the first time since September 2000. The Pirates have won 10 of 13 and are 17-10 in August, their most wins in a month since they had the same record in May 2004.
"It is tough to win a doubleheader," Sanchez said. "To take two, especially against a team that's hot themselves, it feels good."
Sanchez tied a career high with five RBI and hit a grand slam as the Pirates won the opener 6-4. Sanchez also had a run-scoring single in the first game to help the Pirates hold off the Reds, who stranded 13 runners in the first game and 21 in the two games.
The Reds had made up 10½ games in the standings since July 2 under interim manager Pete Mackanin, closing within 6½ of the NL Central-leading Chicago going into the doubleheader. But they dropped to eight back with only a month to play as the Cubs beat Milwaukee 5-3.
"I don't know what to say; it's just kind of frustrating when you're playing well, playing well and you come here and lose two," Adam Dunn said. "At least we could have split. The good thing is we've got two more (in Pittsburgh)."
The Reds had been the NL's hottest team since hiring Mackanin to replace Jerry Narron last month, winning 29 of their first 48 under him, but the Pirates have been surging, too. The Pirates will move ahead of Cincinnati in the standings if they win Wednesday.
"It's something to talk about," Dunn said of the optimism created by the Reds' run. "It's finally something positive, and we're tying to say, 'Hey, as badly as played up until now, we actually have a chance to play for something.'"
Not if they keep playing like this. They hit into four double plays in the second game and, according to Mackanin, committed some mental errors by missing signs and failing to hit cutoff men.
"I can't remember that happening before," he said. "It sure would have been nice to squeak out of one of these victories, but we're not going to get down on ourselves."
In the second game, Reds starter Bronson Arroyo contributed a run-scoring double before tiring after six innings. He left with a 2-1 lead after allowing six hits and striking out six with no walks, but the Pirates tied it in the seventh on pinch-hitter Matt Kata's two-out single off Gary Majewski.
Sanchez, 5-for-7 in the doubleheader to raise his average to a season-high .312, tripled to center with one out in the eighth against Bill Bray (3-1). With the infield pulled in, Adam LaRoche singled up the middle to score Sanchez.
"Mr. Sanchez, again, was in the middle of it," Pirates manager Jim Tracy said.
Sanchez, last season's NL batting champion with a .344 average, is 44-for-114 (.386) this month, with hits in 11 of his last 12 games. Sanchez has nine of his 11 homers since the All-Star break.
"It's definitely satisfying after struggling for a long time," said Sanchez, who was hitting in the low .200s until May after missing most of spring training with a knee injury. "But it's more satisfying that we're winning games."
Shawn Chacon (5-4) got the final out in the eighth for the victory. Matt Capps finished up for his second save of the night and 15th in 17 opportunities, striking out pinch-hitter Ken Griffey Jr. to end the game with a runner on base.
"To strike out Ken Griffey Jr. on three pitches, a guy I grew up idolizing and is one of the finest hitters in the game, that is pretty awesome," Capps said.
Capps needed only 11 pitches to get through the ninth inning of the second game after requiring 27 pitches in the opener.
"My arm felt surprisingly good," Capps said. "But my legs were pretty much gone."
Pirates starter Paul Maholm was lifted after seven innings, allowing 10 hits but giving up only two runs in a second inning in which Arroyo's two-out double proved to be the big hit. Norris Hopper followed with an RBI triple, the second of his four hits. He didn't get a chance for a fifth hit as Griffey hit for him in the ninth.
- Pirates SS Jack Wilson (bruised shin) sat out both games.
- Players and coaches on both benches were seen jawing with second-game plate umpire Mike DiMuro about what they felt was an inconsistent strike zone.
- Hopper's four hits were a career high.
- The Reds are 8-5-8 in their last 21 doubleheaders. They haven't swept a twinbill in Pittsburgh since 1974.
- Despite their strong August, the Pirates must finish 22-9 to avoid a 15th consecutive losing season -- one off the major league record.
- The Reds are 20-30 in games started by opposing left-handers.
- Dunn was 0-for-3 in the two games. He had seven homers and 14 RBI in the Reds' first 12 games against Pittsburgh.