PITTSBURGH -- For 11 1/2 innings, Bryan Price watched home-plate umpire Mike Estabrook establish what the Reds manager thought was a low strike zone. And for 11 1/2 innings, Price was fine with it.
Then came the call that sent his team home with a loss.
Behind Russell Martin, 3-1, with the bases loaded, Tony Cingrani threw a pitch across the plate, near the bottom of the zone. Estabrook called it a ball, Gaby Sanchez -- representing the game-winning run -- strolled across the plate and the Pirates snapped the Reds' three-game winning streak, 4-3.
After the game, the normally reserved Price aired his frustration about the final pitch of the 12-inning affair.
"It was the fact that the strike zone had been established," Price said. "We're in the 12th inning. We're in the 12th inning of a ballgame, the strike zone has already been established and the low strike had been called. And to the credit of the home-plate umpire, consistently, to no advantage of either team. And then to have that pitch right there that split the plate at the bottom of the strike zone that had been established and was called ball four.
"I'm not saying we would have won this game, but it certainly didn't give us an opportunity to go out there and continue to compete in the 13th."
Martin didn't start Thursday's contest, but he did catch the final three innings and acknowledged the concluding call was an iffy one.
"I was going to make him throw strikes," Martin said. "I think we got a fortunate call on that 3-1 pitch, but it's nice to have a call go our way once."
The walk-off walk wasn't the only call of the 12th inning that had the Reds riled up postgame. With one out and Sanchez on first, Cingrani made a move to first base and would've picked off Sanchez, but he was called for a balk. Cingrani said he never got an explanation for the call, and the lefty was as frustrated as his manager.
"They never [explain]. Ever," Cingrani said. "I've never had one explanation. They just go, 'Oh you're going to the plate.' And that's it."
Price said he was upset by the call, mainly because he thought it wasn't signaled until after Sanchez had already been tagged out at first.
"As soon as you see a balk, you call the balk," Price said. "The tag was applied all the way. The play was almost completed before the balk was called. ... I know it's a hard call, it's a very difficult call on a left-hander with a good move. I just thought there was a hesitation. I didn't think he balked."
The Reds never would have made it to extra innings, however, if it wasn't for Devin Mesoraco's ninth-inning solo homer against Jason Grilli. It was Cincinnati's second shot against the Pirates closer in three days, as Todd Frazier hit the game-winning homer against him in Tuesday's series opener.
The Reds didn't have much offense before Mesoraco tied the game -- they had five hits and two runs via sacrifice fly in the first eight innings -- and they had even less after it. In the three additional innings, Cincinnati sent the minimum number of batters to the plate. Frazier had the Reds' lone extra-inning hit, a single, but he was caught stealing to end the threat in the 10th.
Starter Homer Bailey was perfect through three innings, but he ran into trouble in the fifth when he gave up three runs on five hits. Bailey surrendered nine hits altogether, and was pulled with the bases loaded in the sixth right before a 35-minute rain delay. Reliever Sam LeCure got out of the jam after the bad weather passed, and the Reds' bullpen -- which has been an Achilles heel most of the season -- kept the Pirates scoreless for six innings.
The Bucs had a chance to win it in the ninth, but Billy Hamilton's leaping catch at the wall and Aroldis Chapman's strikeout of Andrew McCutchen with two aboard forced free baseball.
The Reds dipped back below the .500 mark with the loss, and though they finished their weeklong road trip, 4-2, Price and his players head back to Cincinnati with a bitter taste in their mouths.
"You know what, I'm really angry about what's happened here," Price said. "I'm not at all happy about this. 4-2? 5-1 would have been a lot better."
Stephen Pianovich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.