PITTSBURGH -- The skies were overcast, and so were the Pittsburgh Pirates' fans after the Cincinnati Reds hit two home runs and scored a 6-3 victory at Three Rivers Stadium.
Cincinnati leads the best-of-seven series, 2-1.
"Zane [Smith] only really had bad location on a couple o pitches," said Pirates center fielder Andy Van Slyke. "And they went to a bad place . . . It's called the seats."
Home runs by Billy Hatcher and Mariano Duncan were all th Nasty Boys needed to clinch the Reds' fifth victory in seven games in Pittsburgh this season.
The outcome reaffirmed the thought that neither team has an particular edge playing at home in this series with the ballparks almost carbon copies.
"No. 1, the parks both have turf. No. 2, they're symmetrical, an the distances are basically the same," said Reds manager Lou Piniella. "I don't think either team has an advantage outside of the fans."
"They're so similar that sometimes, when we're here, we stil think we're in Cincinnati," said Hatcher. "I don't think the home field means much as well-matched as the teams are."
The difference in Game 3 was that the Reds rediscovered sock and the Pirates didn't.
Hatcher, who spent spring training with Pittsburgh, hit only fiv homers during the regular season, but he hit a two-run shot off Smith in the second inning, as the Reds scored first for the third straight game.
Then Duncan iced the decision with a three-run blast off Smith in the fifth inning after the Pirates had rallied to tie at 2 against Danny Jackson.
Duncan hit 10 homers this year.
"The last thing I expected was to see those two guys with home runs," said Van Slyke.
Meanwhile, Jackson left in the sixth after twice escapin bases-loaded jams, and the Nasty Boys, Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton and Randy Myers, refreshed after two days' rest, finished off the Pirates.
"They're my ace in the hole," said Piniella.
The only damage was an unearned run against Charlton in the eighth that scored on Duncan's throwing error.
Smith was Pittsburgh's hottest pitcher through the stretch, with an 0.59 ERA his past six starts. With the Pirates, he was 5-1 with a 1.00 ERA at home.
But none of that mattered to Hatcher, who took a 2-0 fastbal over the center-field fence, or Duncan, who sent an 0-1 fastball over the left-center-field wall.
"We just didn't keep the ball in the ballpark," said Jim Leyland "When that happens, you have problems winning."
Leyland said Smith will pitch again in the series, that he simpl got behind Hatcher and had to come to him. But the Reds hit .280 against lefties this season.
Conversely, the "Killer B's", Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonilla, an their sidekick in the Pirates outfield still have not unleashed their fury.
They are 7-for-34 (.206) with two runs batted in.
"I think we're a little guilty of trying to do too much," said Va Slyke. "When you press, you don't have good swings, and you chase balls out of the strike zone.
"Maybe if you see the three of us start walking, it'll be indicativ of better at-bats for us."
Hatcher had a dramatic homer in Game 6 of the 1986 NL playoff against the New York Mets, a 14th-inning shot that prolonged the game to 16 innings, longest in postseason history.
"Right now, I'm not as nervous as I was then," he said. "I ca relax a little bit. The first time through the media got to me. I didn't know how to handle it."
Duncan said he was simply trying to "make contact. I know I' not a home run hitter. All I wanted to do was find a hole
somewhere and get a run in."
The Pirates closed to within 5-3 in the eighth, but Myers struc out the side in the ninth for his second save of the series.
"We're fortunate to have good long men and outstandin closers, and basically I can interchange them," said Piniella. "That is a tremendous advantage as a manager.
With Jose Rijo starting today, Piniella said he can probably giv Dibble a day off and follow Rijo with his left-handers.
It was a game in which the Reds got by without even playin Paul O'Neill, their leading hitter in Cincinnati and came back with a vengeance when the Pirates pulled even.
"Every time a team scores against you, you want to come right back and score against them," said Hatcher. "It takes something out of them."
The Nasty Boys extracted whatever else was left of the Pirates i this game.
Reds second: Braggs grounded out to shortstop. Benzinger grounded out to shortstop. Oliver singled to left. Hatcher homered to left, Oliver and Hatcher scored. Jackson struck out. Reds 2, Pirates 0.
Pirates fourth: Bell doubled to left. Van Slyke walked. Bonilla singled to center, Bell scored, Van Slyke to second. Bonds fouled out to shortstop. Martinez doubled to left, Van Slyke scored, Bonilla to third. Slaught intentionally walked. Lind struck out. Smith grounded out to pitcher. Reds 2, Pirates 2.