By Kevin Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The $100 bill, folded in half and taped to his locker door, was Cory Lidle's reward.
A generous teammate placed it there Saturday afternoon, along with a message scribbled in black marker.
"Congratulations on your first win as a Red."
The gesture astounded Lidle.
"I'll take one of those every time we get a win," the Reds pitcher said with a disbelieving smile. "That's not in the contract, but I'll take it."
By practicing the basic fundamentals coaches ingrained in them during spring training, Lidle and the Reds beat the Pirates 3-1 before 23,449 fans at Great American Ball Park.
Pitchers threw strikes. The defense played error-free. And hitters provided enough offense for Cincinnati's fourth straight win.
"These guys are pulling for each other," Reds manager Dave Miley said. "When you play good baseball and do the things to get better, the confidence level picks up a little bit."
These are heady, early-season days for a team picked to do little.
The Reds are off to their best start in a decade and lead the National League Central standings entering today's homestand finale.
Much of the credit goes to the pitching staff.
Lidle's start - seven innings, six hits, one earned run, three strikeouts and no walks - was the fourth consecutive quality outing by a Reds starter.
Cincinnati led 2-1 when he was pulled after the seventh inning. Ryan Wagner and Danny Graves each pitched one scoreless inning of relief.
"That's such a big part of the game - pounding the strike zone, not getting yourself in trouble," Miley said. "I'm also happy with the way we've gone about playing defense."
The Reds played their third error-free game Saturday.
Two head's-up plays prevented the Pirates from getting the chance to score.
"I think at one time we were last in doing all the little things, the fundamentals. That's embarrassing," third baseman Ryan Freel said. "But I think what we did in spring training is leading into the season now."
Pirates center fielder Tike Redman came to bat with Abraham Nunez on second base after a leadoff double off Wagner.
Cincinnati second baseman D'Angelo Jimenez positioned himself closer to the infield grass in anticipation of a bunt by Redman.
Redman instead grounded a ball to Jimenez, who fielded the ball, looked up and saw Nunez break toward third base.
He then threw to third base where Freel tagged out Nunez for the first out.
"I saw I had a chance at third base and just threw it," Jimenez said.
Before he threw another pitch, Wagner picked off Redman at first base for the second out. Jack Wilson flew out to center to end the inning.
"I just wanted to keep him honest, let him know that I knew he was there," Wagner said. "I just threw my best move over there and luckily caught him off guard."
Graves pitched a perfect ninth for his third save in four days.
Jimenez accounted for the Reds' second and third runs of the game.
A sacrifice fly in the sixth inning scored Freel from third to give the Reds the 2-1 lead. His double in the eighth inning scored catcher Jason LaRue.
Left fielder Adam Dunn hit a 421-foot home run to tie the game at one in the fourth inning.
"It's important to get off to this kind of start just so we know early that we can do it instead of waiting until the second or third month of the season to figure out we can play ball here," Lidle said.
|Griffey Jr. cf||3||0||2||0||1||0||.429|
E-Boyd (1). LOB-Pittsburgh 4, Cincinnati 11. 2B-JWilson (3), ANunez (1), DJimenez (1), Griffey Jr. (1), Casey (3). 3B-Wells (1), Freel (1). HR-Dunn (3), off Wells. RBIs-JWilson (3), DJimenez 2 (4), Dunn (3). SB-JWilson (1). S-Freel. SF-JWilson, DJimenez. GIDP-Castillo.
Runners left in scoring position-Pittsburgh 2 (Simon, CWilson); Cincinnati 7 (Larkin 2, JCastro, Kearns, Casey, Dunn 2).
Runners moved up-Casey.
DP-Cincinnati 1 (Larkin, DJimenez and Casey).
|Wells L, 1-1||6||7||2||2||4||7||114||1.50|
|Lidle W, 1-1||7||6||1||1||0||3||99||4.50|
|RWagner H, 2||1||1||0||0||0||0||13||0.00|
|Graves S, 3||1||0||0||0||0||1||14||3.00|
HBP-by Boyd (LaRue).
Umpires-Home, Ed Rapuano; First, Ted Barrett; Second, Alfonso Marquez; Third, Rick Reed.
T-2:45. A-23,449 (42,271).
REDS / BASEBALL
Lidle throws strikes, cashes in with victory
Photos of Saturday's game
Koch: For Miley, managing is simple
Haynes feels good about 1st 2004 start
755 long balls, 0 boasts
On second thought, is Vina available?
Pettitte placed on DL
MLB power rankings
NL: Sheets whiffs 10 'Stros
AL: Twins end Tigers' streak
AAA: Norfolk 5, Louisville 2
BENGALS / NFL
Curnutte: No. 1 only number of import
Packers corner McKenzie seeking trade
Daugherty: Where have you gone, Tiger Woods?
Lefty in the right position
Rose wilts under the warm Georgia sun
Ohio boys hoops All-Stars win with ease
Groeschen: Ohio high school insider
Ernst: Kentucky high school insider
Prep sports results, schedules
The Cliff's Edge rewards faith
Victory boosts Sellers on comeback trail
Undefeated Smarty Jones wins Arkansas Derby
NHL Playoffs: Wings up 2-0
Denver wins Frozen Four title
Dallas' road woes continue
11-year-old gets her kicks with martial arts triumphs
What's up with that?
A quick chat with ... Mike Hall
Wineberg wipes out UC decathlon mark
MORE SPORTS HEADLINES
Greeks try turning 'words' to 'work' to meet Olympic deadlines
Sports today on TV, radio
Return to Reds front page...