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Baltimore Orioles' Nelson Cruz watches his two-run home run in the first inning of an interleague baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in Baltimore. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

BALTIMORE (AP) — J.J. Hardy hit a tiebreaking two-run single in the seventh inning, and the Baltimore Orioles gave away a six-run lead before rebounding to beat the Cincinnati Reds 9-7 Thursday night for a three-game sweep.

After completing a 9-2 homestand against Tampa Bay, Minnesota and the Reds, the AL East-leading Orioles (82-57) are assured a third straight winning season for the first time since 1992-94.

Nelson Cruz hit his major league-leading 37th home run in a six-run first inning, but the Reds chipped away and finally pulled even with a four-run seventh.

Nick Markakis led off the bottom half with a single off Manny Parra (0-2), and Hardy put Baltimore back in front with a bases-loaded single on a 3-1 pitch from Sam LeCure.

Cincinnati Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart, right, pats starting pitcher Mike Leake on the chest during a visit to the mound after Leake walked Baltimore
Cincinnati Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart, right, pats starting pitcher Mike Leake on the chest during a visit to the mound after Leake walked Baltimore Orioles' J.J. Hardy in the first inning of an interleague baseball game, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in Baltimore. Baltimore scored six runs in the first. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Tommy Hunter (3-2) worked 1 1-3 innings and Zach Britton got three outs for his 33rd save.

After watching the Reds get beat 6-0 on Wednesday — their 15th loss in 21 games — Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said he was going to "see what we have in our system."

His starting lineup contained five September call-ups and first baseman Jack Hannahan, who has no RBIs in 17 games this season.

Devin Mesoraco went 4 for 4, hit his 21st home run and had four RBIs. But the Reds dropped to 66-74, the first time they've been eight games under .500 since Oct. 2, 2009.

Mesoraco doubled in two runs in the seventh to complete Cincinnati's comeback.


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Cruz homered with a man on and newcomer Kelly Johnson doubled in a run before Nick Hundley capped the first-inning uprising against Mike Leake with a three-run shot.

Jonathan Schoop connected in the fourth to make it 7-2. The rookie has homered in three straight games.

Leake yielded a career high-tying seven runs on seven hits in four innings. The three home runs he allowed also matched a career high.

Orioles starter Chris Tillman gave up five hits over six innings. He left with Baltimore up 7-3.

Baltimore Orioles’ Nick Hundley (40) crosses home plate in front of Cincinnati Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart, right, after hitting a three-run home
Baltimore Orioles' Nick Hundley (40) crosses home plate in front of Cincinnati Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart, right, after hitting a three-run home run in the first inning of an interleague baseball game, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in Baltimore. Baltimore's Kelly Johnson, second from left, J.J. Hardy and Jonathan Schoop (6) look on. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) (Patrick Semansky/AP)

TRAINER'S ROOM

Reds: RHP Homer Bailey will have surgery on his elbow Friday to repair a torn tendon. Bailey, who's on the 60-day DL, expects to be fully recovered by the start of spring training.

Orioles: 1B Steve Pearce, who has not played since Aug. 29 because of a strained abdominal muscle, hopes to return Saturday against Tampa Bay. Also, reliever Andrew Miller is day-to-day with a tender hamstring.

UP NEXT

Reds: Alfredo Simon, who's 1-6 in the second half, takes the mound Friday night for the opener of a series against the visiting New York Mets.

Orioles: Wei-Yin Chen (14-4) starts for the fifth time this season against Tampa Bay to launch a three-game series Friday night.