CINCINNATI, SEPT. 29 -- The Cincinnati Reds clinched second place in the NL West with a sloppy, frightening and ultimately disappointing 5-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves today.

The sloppiness came in the ninth inning, when right fielder Dave Parker dropped a fly ball that should have ended the game. Instead, he let the Braves tie the score. Buddy Bell helped the Reds overcome the error with an RBI single in the bottom of the ninth for the victory.

The frightening part came in the fourth, when the Reds starter, Guy Hoffman, was hit by a line drive. It deflected off a shoulder and struck a temple. He wasn't seriously hurt.

The disappointing aspect was evident afterward, when the Reds accepted their third consecutive second-place finish and tried to look ahead.

"I'm disappointed we didn't win {the division}, but I saw some positive things this year and some negative things this year," Manager Pete Rose said. "Right now, I see more positive things than negative things."

Nick Esasky's three hits today included a bases-loaded single that put the Reds ahead in the fifth, 4-2.

The Reds seemingly had a 4-3 victory in the ninth when pinch hitter Ted Simmons lofted a fly ball to right-center with Dale Murphy on first and two out. But the ball bounced off Parker's glove at waist-level. Murphy stopped after rounding third, then scored while Parker was trying to pick up the ball.

Rose didn't see the play because he had headed for the clubhouse.

"What happened?" he asked a reporter. "When the ball was hit, I'm up in the tunnel. The game was over."

Reliever Pat Perry (5-3) got Paul Runge to fly out to end the inning, then Parker helped atone. Paul O'Neill drew a one-out walk from Jim Acker (4-7), went to second on Parker's single to right and scored easily when Bell pulled a single down the third-base line.

The hit ended a long afternoon. The start of the Reds' last home game was delayed 2 hours 2 minutes by rain, and a downpour stopped the game for 43 minutes in the top of the eighth.

Hoffman (10-10) got the victory. He allowed four hits and struck out seven in seven innings. He came away with no decision on his record, a red welt on his left shoulder and a sore head.

"The shoulder hurts more than anything," he said. "It hit me on the tip of the shoulder, and then on the side of the head."

The Reds scored twice in the third off rookie Pete Smith, who lasted four innings in his fifth major league start. Jeff Treadway singled and scored on O'Neill's double to the wall in left-center. Parker singled to right to score O'Neill.

The Braves tied it in the fourth. Albert Hall lined the single that struck Hoffman. One out later, Gerald Perry's 12th homer went over the wall in center.

The Reds broke the tie in the fifth against reliever Paul Assenmacher, who hit Treadway with a pitch and walked Bell and Terry McGriff to load the bases with two out. Esasky lined a single to right for the go-ahead runs.