PITTSBURGH, OCT. 11 -- How often have you heard this? "I just hope I get another chance."

Zane Smith, Pittsburgh Pirates' left-handed pitcher, said it and he will get another chance as the Pirates flew off to Cincinnati today with new hope, although they still trail the Reds, three games to two, in the National League Championship Series.

Smith was the starter and loser Monday in Game 3, which was considered crucial to the Pirates' chances. Smith's assignment Friday night at Riverfront Stadium is about as crucial as it gets -- the Reds are only one victory shy of their first pennant since 1976.

"I don't think anybody likes to go out on national television and give up five runs in a playoff game," Smith said. He yielded the five on a pair of home runs -- by Billy Hatcher, then Mariano Duncan. "The first one didn't bother me. Two runs is nothing. I knew we'd get those runs back. But giving up a three-run homer is always going to hurt you. That one really hurt."Smith agonized over the defeat for several hours, a victim of often quickly changing fortunes in sports. During the NL East title drive, Smith had been a force. Joining 22-game winner Doug Drabek in the rotation, the Pirates' top left-hander went 6-2 with a 1.30 ERA after being obtained Aug. 8 from Montreal. "Sometimes it takes getting traded to a winning club to wake you up and teach you what it's supposed to be like all over again," Smith said.

He'd been lost with the Atlanta Braves from 1984 until he was acquired by Montreal in July 1989. He was 1-12 with Atlanta in 1989, though he received little support. He finished the season in Montreal as a reliever, then was 6-7 as a starter this year before the Expos dealt him to the Pirates. "I think when I was with the Braves and Expos that I forgot what it took to be a winning pitcher," he said.

When he at last got his playoff chance Monday, Smith ran into problems with "location." His mistakes to Hatcher and Duncan were fastballs up instead of down. Their next location was over the fence at Three Rivers.

Danny Jackson, who got the win over Smith, although he wasn't so great either, will be back for a rematch. After he picked up the victory, allowing two runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings, he said, "I wasn't real happy with my location."

One of the few players in this series who isn't dispensing cliches from the Crash Davis school of interview-survival is Pittsburgh's Barry Bonds. Earlier this week, he implied that the Pirates were "chokers." This is Bonds, of the collapsed "Killer B's" -- Bonds and Bobby Bonilla. They combined for 65 home runs and 234 RBI during the season; in the playoffs, no home runs and two RBI.

Bonds's latest charge came after Pirates third baseman Jeff King took himself out of the lineup for Wednesday night's game because of a bad back. He had reinjured it striking out against Rob Dibble on Tuesday. Bonds said he thought King should play hurt.

Pirates Manager Jim Leyland was visibly upset when told of Bonds's remark. "Jeff King wanted to play, but it was my decision," Leyland said. "I felt bad telling the kid he couldn't play. He feels awful. Jeff King did not ask out of the lineup. He's just not up to his full capabilities, and with one more day of rest he should be ready."

As it turned out, it was Bonilla at third base who started a game-ending double play to preserve the Pirates' 3-2 victory. King -- or Wally Backman or Rafael Belliard, either of whom might have been in as a defensive replacement -- couldn't have done it any better.

But Bonilla and Bonds are not expected to win this series with their gloves. Thanks to Drabek, they still have time for a power surge. A home run early with men on base in Game 6 could make the Reds nervous. But the Reds have been careful, and successful, with Bonilla and Bonds. "We're just really concentrating on those two guys plus {Andy} Van Slyke," Reds pitcher Jose Rijo said. "We're trying not to let any of those three beat us."

The Pirates are hoping to get another chance at Rijo -- and they will if Smith can get them to the seventh game. Rijo, who won Game 4, thought the Pirates were dead in the series when he sent them down by three games to one. Before Game 5, he talked about how he was going to pitch to Jose Canseco and the Oakland A's.

"If there's a Game 7, doesn't that mean we'll see Rijo?" Van Slyke asked.

That's all he had to say.