By John Fay
The Cincinnati Enquirer
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."
|Griffey Jr. cf||3||0||0||0||1||1||.239|
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, 2-1||1||0||0||0||0||1||6||6.20|
|Graves S, 26||1||0||0||0||0||0||15||2.81|
|BHoward L, 0-1||1/3||1||1||1||0||0||7||13.50|
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).
Opening ticket sales pass team's expectations
Former Buckeye tears ACL
A pretty sweep comeback
Players want Miley rewarded
AL: A's win 2nd straight on game-ending HR
A's lose Chavez for minimum of six weeks
NL: Classics: Clemens wins at Wrigley
Sycamore holds off West in semifinal
Moeller's top gun goes against St. Ignatius
Colonels' bats come up big in final inning
Prep results, schedules
A 'user-friendly' competition
In the spollight: Triathlon
Triathlon is 'ultimate finish' on woman's road to fitness
Getting started in Triathlons
Upstart Teams Face Uphill Climb
Success tough, not impossible
Smarty Jones 2-5 Belmont favorite
Woods, Singh share time at Memorial
Capriati hopes experience will work to her advantage
Sports today on TV, radio
Return to Reds front page...