By John Erardi and Kevin Kelly
The Cincinnati Enquirer
At some point - it seemed about a day and a half ago - Adam Dunn was the star of this game, with a bases-loaded, two-run double in the third inning off Roger Clemens to give the Reds a 4-0 lead.
That was about three hours before Juan Castro seized the star's garland Saturday night with a gem of a diving stab for the last out with two men on base to preserve the Reds' 8-7 lead.
Dunn had laid the groundwork for some good at-bats Saturday in an early batting practice, er, make that looking practice, with hitting coach Chris Chambliss.
"I didn't do a lot of swinging" in the special session, Dunn said. "I'd been swinging at a whole bunch of bad pitches the last few games. I didn't feel comfortable seeing the ball. That's basically what I worked on."
Dunn was 2-for-2 Saturday, with two walks - which, frankly, is the way this guy's line should read more often, what with his great eye.
Entering the game, the Reds left fielder had two hits and nine strikeouts in his past 16 at-bats.
Check out his pitch-by-pitch at-bat vs. Clemens in the third: ball one inside, ball two away. Clemens painted the outside black for a looking strike one, got a looking strike two with an off-speed pitch, and then Dunn took inside heat to run the count full.
"I knew he was going to say, 'Here's my heater - hit it,' " Dunn said. "I've been horrible in that situation this year so far. I just wanted to put it in play. Luckily, I got a good piece of wood on it."
Why has he been bad in this situation?
"Too aggressive," he said.
Dunn proclaimed the 8-7 victory "the best baseball game I've ever been a part of."
ANNIVERSARY OF SORTS: Austin Kearns would like to forget the incident even happened.
Saturday marked the one-year anniversary since the Reds right fielder injured his shoulder in a home-plate collision with Braves pitcher Ray King.
"That's not something I want to remember," Kearns said.
The anniversary he is anticipating, however, is Aug. 14. That's when doctors performed arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder last year to repair the damage sustained in the collision. It takes about a year after such an operation for a player to feel "back to normal," Kearns said.
FAMILIAR FACES: Riding a three-game winning streak, the Reds used the same starting lineup for the fourth consecutive game Saturday. It was the first time they had used the same lineup in four straight games since July 31-Aug. 4, 2001.
"I can understand (why it's been so long), because we've had some injuries and needed to move people around in the lineup," Casey said. "But it's definitely nice to be able to come in, know where you're slotted and not have to look."
FEELING ILL: Third baseman Brandon Larson (left quadriceps strain) did not begin his rehabilitation assignment with Double-A Chattanooga Saturday. He was held out with flu-like symptoms.
VANDER WAL UPDATE: Outfielder John Vander Wal went 2-for-4 with two home runs and played nine innings in right field at extended spring training Saturday.
Vander Wal is coming off January surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
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