CINCINNATI — The ball deflected off the green-padded post in the outfield wall and rolled to Melky Cabrera, who whirled and threw.
The left hand went forward. The ball went sideways. The race was on.
Ryan Hanigan doubled home two runs and kept going when the ball slipped away from the Atlanta Braves center fielder, rounding the bases on the pivotal play of the Cincinnati Reds’ 5-2 victory Saturday, one that came down to one wacky play.
“Just an unfortunate play out there in center — whatever that was,” Atlanta’s Chipper Jones said.
It was an unfortunate day for the NL East leaders in a couple of ways. The Braves lost leadoff hitter Martin Prado to a hand injury, another setback to a struggling lineup. Later, they traded to upgrade their outfield and bullpen.
Center field was the problem in this one.
Hanigan doubled off Jair Jurrjens (3-4), who has yet to win on the road. Two runs scored while Cabrera chased the ball to the wall. When the outfielder turned and threw quickly, the ball slipped from his hand and rolled across the outfield, allowing the catcher to chug home on the weird error.
“I saw it as I was rounding second,” Hanigan said. “I knew I had a chance. It was one of those things. It was good timing. I was in a position where I was deciding whether to go to third. I saw the ball come off and it made my decision pretty easy.”
Bronson Arroyo (11-6) gave up five hits in seven innings. Francisco Cordero, who took the loss in Atlanta’s 6-4 win on Friday night, got booed when he was introduced to start the ninth. He gave up a pair of singles, then got Jason Heyward on a called third strike for his 28th save in 34 tries.
Heyward had doubled home a pair of runs in the 10th inning off Cordero for Atlanta’s win the previous night.
The Braves will be without Prado for at least a week. Tests on Saturday found he broke the second knuckle on his right pinkie when he slid headfirst into home plate on Friday night. Prado leads the league in hits, ranks third with a .315 average, and leads the majors with 44 multihit games.
Cincinnati entered the day a half-game behind St. Louis in the NL Central. The Reds made no moves before the non-waiver trade deadline Saturday — a couple of potential deals for relievers fell through.
Then, they pulled out a strange win.
Jurrjens took a 2-1 lead into the seventh, in line for his first road win of the season. The right-hander is 0-4 in seven road starts.
Scott Rolen homered in the fourth and doubled to start the go-ahead rally in the seventh. Jay Bruce singled to tie it, and Hanigan came up to face Jurrjens with two outs and two runners aboard.
“He got a 2-2 count on Hanigan and left a changeup up,” manager Bobby Cox said. “He was one pitch away from pitching another inning.
Instead, Hanigan doubled off a padded fence post in center. He kept going when the ball slipped out of Cabrera’s hand for a two-base error.
Hanigan completed the breathtaking play by sliding into home, then popping up quickly and smacking his hands together. He panted in the dugout while laughing teammates congratulated him.
“That was crazy,” manager Dusty Baker said. “I was looking down when it happened, and I thought it hit a post or something. That’s the only way he’s going to get a Little League, inside-the-park home run.”
The Reds drew their second straight capacity crowd. They expect to sell out the weekend series on Sunday, the first time they’ve had three consecutive sellouts since 2004, when Ken Griffey Jr. was trying for his 500th homer.