Wednesday, July 25, 2001

Reds 11, Braves 3

LaRue does best Bench impersonation

By Chris Haft
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ATLANTA — Sacrilegious as it may sound, Jason LaRue might have made Johnny Bench envious Tuesday night.

        LaRue was equally dynamic at the plate and behind it, personally vanquishing two baserunners and driving in three runs to help the Reds thrash the Atlanta Braves, 11-3.

        Cincinnati (38-62) has won two consecutive games for the first time since June 27-28. By defeating Atlanta back-to-back, the Reds assured themselves of ending their streak of six series defeats in a row. Dating back to last year, the Reds have won five of six games at Turner Field.

Adam Dunn loses his helmet as he slides into second wqith a first-inning double.
(AP photo)
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        They maintained their surprising dominance here with a complete effort that featured 12 hits, including seven for extra bases, and strong pitching from Jim Brower (5-7). The right-hander earned his first victory as a starter since April 24 by limiting Atlanta to two runs and six hits in six innings.

        Cincinnati backed Brower with a four-run first inning and a three-run fifth off Atlanta starter John Burkett (7-8). A pair of Atlanta errors fed Cincinnati five unearned runs.

        “That's the capability we have,” said first baseman Sean Casey, who doubled twice and drove in a run. “We should've been doing that all year long. Hopefully we can start doing that in the second half and play the spoiler. Teams can't say, "Hey, the Reds are in town, it's a few wins for us.' You have to play us hard for nine innings or we're going to beat you.”

        LaRue was particularly resolute:

        • He saved a first-inning run by expertly blocking the plate with his left foot. With one out and the bases loaded, Ken Caminiti flied out to medium-deep right field. Adam Dunn fired a powerful one-hop throw home. Atlanta's Mark DeRosa actually beat the peg, but found his path to the plate obstructed by LaRue's leg. LaRue tagged him as he slid by, completing the inning-ending double play.

        “That's his best play at the plate all year,” manager Bob Boone said.

        “He bailed me out,” Brower said. “My game hinged on that play.”

        Said LaRue, “I tried to give (DeRosa) as much of the plate as I could so he would slide. I thought that if the throw was on line, I could stick my foot a little farther in front of the plate at the last minute, so hopefully I could ricochet him off of me and he wouldn't touch the plate.”

        • LaRue stopped a rally before it started in the fourth inning by throwing out Andruw Jones on an attempted steal of second base. Jones was 11-for-12 in his previous tries. But he was no match for LaRue, who leads all catchers with 31 runners caught stealing.

        “His throws keep getting more and more special,” Boone said.

        • LaRue twice burned the Braves after they intentionally walked Dmitri Young, the hitter ahead of him. Given LaRue's .237 pregame average, Young's status as a switch-hitter and the fact that first base was open before each free pass, the insult wasn't extreme. Still, LaRue gained respect by lining a two-run single in the fifth inning and an RBI single in the seventh.

        “You kind of don't want to get too fired up, because you don't want to try to do something you're not capable of doing,” LaRue said. “Both times, I told myself to relax and make sure you get a good pitch to hit.”


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