By JOE KAY AP Baseball Writer
CINCINNATI (AP) _ Aaron Harang couldn’t get a win in a ballpark where he’s always felt comfortable.
The right-hander went six innings in his third start for the New York Mets, but the offense wasn’t much help as the Cincinnati Reds rallied for a 3-2 win in 10 innings on Monday night.
Shin-Soo Choo drove in the winning run with a single high off the wall in the 10th, and the Reds clinched an NL wild card a few minutes later when the Washington Nationals lost.
St. Louis remained in first place in the NL Central two games ahead of both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, which secured wild cards with the Nationals’ loss to the Cardinals.
The Reds didn’t celebrate their third playoff spot in four years _ they’re hoping for another NL Central title instead of just a wild card. Harang was Cincinnati’s ace and watched a lot of its young players emerge during his eight seasons with the Reds.
“From night to night, somebody always steps up and gets the big hit,” Harang said. “I was lucky enough to get to see a lot of them come up. I saw a lot of those guys make their debuts and mature as players.”
The Mets were left to rehash another game of wasted chances.
David Aardsma kept the game going by pitching out of a bases-loaded threat in the ninth, retiring Todd Frazier on a fly out.
Greg Burke (0-3) gave up a one-out single to Devin Mesoraco in the 10th, and Derrick Robinson singled him to third. Choo followed with his third hit of the game off left-hander Sean Henn, a drive high off the wall in left-center. Choo headed for the dugout after crossing first base.
Manny Parra (2-3) allowed one hit in the 10th.
“I was hoping to go out there and give us a chance to win,” said Harang, who allowed two runs in six innings. “It’s always special to come back and pitch in a place where you pitched so long. It feels like you’re pitching in your home ballpark. I felt like I pitched well.”
It was a notable win for the Reds _ their 90th of the season, the third time in the last four years that they’ve reached the mark under Baker. They haven’t had so many 90-win seasons since the Big Red Machine of the 1970s.
Johnny Cueto made a second solid start since coming off the disabled list, an encouraging sign for Cincinnati’s postseason plans. The right-hander has been sidelined three times by soreness near his shoulder.
He gave up two runs _ one earned _ on Lucas Duda’s sacrifice fly and solo homer, which snapped an 0-for-17 slump. In two starts, Cueto has allowed eight hits and one earned run in 12 innings.
The Reds got two runs in the second off Harang. Choo singled home a run in the second and Joey Votto got one of his career-high five walks with the bases loaded.
Harang is 3-0 in four career starts against the Reds, including a 4-2 victory with Seattle on July 5 at Great American Ball Park. The Mariners later released him with a 5-11 record.
“We’ve got holes,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “Everybody’s got holes, but you can’t say we don’t play hard. We play hard.
“Cueto was very good tonight. Aaron pitched a good game. He kept us in the game. We did a lot of things good, we just couldn’t muster enough runs.”
The Reds sustained their hopes of another division title by winning another long game _ they are 13-9 in extra innings.
Last September, manager Dusty Baker was in a Chicago hospital getting treated for an irregular heartbeat and a mini-stroke when the Reds clinched the NL Central title. They made a video of their spray-away celebration and wished for another when he returned.
It didn’t happy. Cueto had to leave the opening game of the playoffs at San Francisco after only eight pitches because of a strained muscle in his right side. With their rotation in flux, the Reds lost the five-game series.
This season, the Reds have stayed in contention despite losing Cueto, setup relievers Sean Marshall and Jonathan Broxton, and cleanup hitter Ryan Ludwick for most of the season. Ludwick tore cartilage in his right shoulder while sliding into a base on opening day and was out for more than three months.
They were six games out on Aug. 9, in danger of falling out of the division’s three-team race. They regrouped and have taken the race down to the final week by winning 12 of their last 17.
NOTES: New York’s David Wright had his hitting streak ended at eight games. … Billy Hamilton got in as a pinch-runner in the eighth and stole second, leaving him 13 for 13 in attempts. The Mets called for a pitchout but Frank Francisco threw it over the plate. … Votto has walked 132 times this season, tying Joe Morgan’s club record from 1975. The five walks also tied a club record. … RHP Mike Leake (14-6) starts for the Reds on Tuesday against LHP Jonathon Niese (7-8).
(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)