Thursday, June 3, 2004

A pretty sweep comeback

Hitless through six, Reds rally to win 3rd vs. Marlins

By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer


Photo gallery from game.
MIAMI - As Florida starter Dontrelle Willis cruised through the Reds' batting order, conversation turned to how to derail the D-Train.

"(Hitting coach) Chris Chambliss said we've got to take it one step at a time," Reds manager Dave Miley said. "We've got to get a hit or walk and go from there."

The step-by-step approach worked. The Reds got some hits, some runs - and a win.

Wednesday's 3-1 victory over the Marlins on a steamy day at Pro Player Stadium completed an improbable three-game sweep of the defending World Series champions and left the Reds heading into today's off day chockfull of confidence.

"It's big-time to come in here and sweep these guys," Reds first baseman Sean Casey said. "They're one of the best teams around. We feel like we're one of the best, too."

Who's to argue?

The Reds have won 15 of their last 19 games. They have the best record in the National League by two games.

And it's beginning to look as if there's no game they can't win.

Willis, last year's National League Rookie of the Year, retired the first 20 batters he faced Wednesday and came away with a no-decision.

Cincinnati starter Cory Lidle wasn't as good, but he was good enough to keep the Reds in it.

"Cory Lidle really impressed me," Casey said. "With the way Dontrelle was throwing, if they score a couple of runs, it's over."

But it was 1-0 when Willis retired the first two batters of the seventh inning. Casey then blooped a hit into left field to break up the perfect game.

Willis got ahead of Ken Griffey Jr. 0-2 but lost him to a walk. Ball 3 easily could have been Strike 3.

But the Reds had the break they needed. That brought up D'Angelo Jimenez.

"He was throwing good," Jimenez said. "I grounded out to short and third my first two times up, so I was trying to go to right or up the middle."

He went up the middle with an RBI single to tie it at 1.

The Reds had to pinch-hit for Lidle in the eighth. But the usual relief suspects - John Riedling and Todd Jones - were unavailable after pitching the previous two days.

Miley went with Brian Reith - he of the 6.52 ERA. Reith gave the Reds a 1-2-3 inning.

"Against the heart of the order," Miley said. "That was big."

Said Reith: "I was glad they showed confidence in me. I think I've been throwing better lately."

Willis was gone by the ninth, replaced by reliever Ben Howard. After one out, Felipe Lopez, in his first start of the year, got his first hit of the year - a single to right-center.

Marlins manager Jack McKeon immediately brought in left-hander Matt Perisho to face Casey, who was 0-for-5 against Perisho.

Casey took a strike, then hit one into the right-field seats for his 10th home run of the year and a 3-1 Reds lead.

Casey continues to be the hottest hitter on the planet. He's on an eight-game streak and is 15-for-32 (.469) with four home runs and 11 RBI over that span.

"Unbelievable," Miley said. "He breaks up the perfect game. Then he faces a guy he's 0-for-5 against. Now he's 1-for-6, and it was a pretty big hit."

After a 1-2-3 ninth by Danny Graves for his 26th save, the Reds had a three-game sweep and 5-1 road trip.

The only game the Reds lost on the trip was Sunday's in Montreal, when their best starter (Paul Wilson) had to skip a start and the guy they brought up from the minors (Joe Valentine) couldn't get an out in the second inning.

So the Reds came to Miami with a spent bullpen and swept the World Series champions, who came in having won five games in a row and nine of their last 11.

The Reds easily could have been the ones swept. They rallied from a five-run deficit to win the first game. In the second, they won a game in which the pitcher with the second-best ERA in the NL started. And they won the third game after going 20 up, 20 down to start it.

"It was a great series for us," Reds shortstop Barry Larkin said. "But you've got to settle into a grind. We've got to go to Cincinnati and try to take two of three from the Expos."

Freel 3b400000.241
Hummel 3b000000.188
FLopez ss411000.167
Casey 1b422201.391
Griffey Jr. cf300011.239
DJimenez 2b401100.246
Dunn lf300001.247
WPena rf301002.279
Valentin c300001.156
Lidle p200000.143
Larkin ph100000.290
Reith p000000---
Graves p000000---
LCastillo 2b401001.278
Pierre cf401101.318
Lowell 3b400001.342
Cabrera rf402001.286
Conine lf401002.282
Choi 1b400000.248
AGonzalez ss401001.228
Treanor c311010.333
Willis p200000.318
BHoward p000000---
Perisho p000000---

E-FLopez 2 (2), Lidle (1). LOB-Cincinnati 2, Florida 7. 2B-WPena (2). HR-Casey (10), off Perisho. RBIs-Casey 2 (42), DJimenez (20), Pierre (16). CS-LCastillo (2), Pierre (8). S-Willis.

Reith W, 2-110000166.20
Graves S, 26100000152.81
BHoward L, 0-11/311100713.50

Inherited runners-scored-Perisho 1-1.

Umpires-Home, Jeff Nelson; First, Marty Foster; Second, Joe Brinkman; Third, Tim Tschida.

T-2:29. A-12,222 (36,331).

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