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Reds take ninth straight series

Sean Casey’s sacrifice fly with the bases loaded brought Cameron home with the winning run in the 11th inning Sunday for a 4-3 victory, giving the Reds another winning series.

Monday, August 23, 1999

Sean Casey’s sacrifice fly with the bases loaded brought Cameron home with the winning run in the 11th inning Sunday for a 4-3 victory, giving the Reds another winning series.

”It was a long day but a good one,” a weary Casey said.

For the Expos, it was one long heartbreak.

”It was quite a game,” manager Felipe Alou said. ”We had them right where we wanted them.”

Somehow, the Reds managed to turn the tables on them and add to their remarkable late-season surge. They’ve won their last nine series, the best such run in the major leagues this season.

The victory Sunday was their 20th in the last 28 games, a span during which they have not lost consecutive games. With Houston rained out Sunday, Cincinnati moved to within a half-game of the NL Central leaders.

”It’s pretty amazing,” manager Jack McKeon said of the nine straight series wins. ”It’s tough to sweep a series.”

It’s also imperative.

”It’s what we have to do,” Casey said. ”With Houston winning, we’ve got to keep pace. We know we need to win series to stay in this race.”

The Expos had at least two chances to win the deciding game in the series Sunday. They botched both.

Vladimir Guerrero extended his hitting streak to 27 games – third-longest in the majors this season – with an RBI double in the first inning. Dustin Hermanson, who grew up in nearby Springfield, was in line to get his first victory over his boyhood team when he turned a 2-1 lead over to the bullpen in the seventh.

His defense let him down. The Reds squeezed out a run in the seventh on three ground-ball singles that found their way to Expos’ gloves. Montreal, which has the worst fielding percentage and the most errors in the majors, couldn’t make the plays.

”That’s part of baseball,” said Hermanson, who is 0-3 in seven career starts against Cincinnati. ”Sometimes when you’re in a game that’s not high-scoring, you’ve got to be able to manufacture the late runs like that.”

The Expos did the same that in the 10th, when Michael Barrett and Shane Andrews doubled off Scott Sullivan (4-3) with two outs for a 3-2 lead. Closer Ugueth Urbina came on to try for his 30th save, but gave up Aaron Boone’s tying RBI single with two outs instead.

Urbina (6-5) then let it get away in the 11th by walking Cameron with one out, giving up a single to Michael Tucker and walking Jeffrey Hammonds to load the bases.

Casey, who was 0-for-5 and had slammed his bat and thrown his helmet in frustration after an eighth-inning strikeout, came up determined to finish on an upbeat note.

”It was a bad day for me personally,” he said. ”All day long when I was on a pitch, I fouled it back. When I’d put it into play, I’d hit it weakly.

”That last at-bat was probably my best at-bat of the day.”

He went to a two-strike count before fouling off two pitches, taking a ball and then hitting a fly deep to left to score Cameron and start a low-volume celebration.

”It was just an exhausting day,” said Casey, who lacked his usual exuberance afterwards. ”It was an emotional day, a back-and-forth day. It was a great win.”

Notes: Guerrero’s streak trails the 28-game hitting streak by Toronto’s Shawn Green and a 30-game streak by Arizona’s Luis Gonzalez. … Montreal’s Brad Fullmer also extended his hitting streak to a career-best 16 games. … Catcher Chris Widger fell rounding first base in the first inning, sprained his left knee and left the game. There was no telling how long he’d be sidelined. … The Reds will try to extend their series winning streak in Atlanta, where they were swept in a three-game series April 30-May 2 and haven’t won a series since 1995, dropping seven straight. The Reds have the best road record in the majors at 38-17. … Slumping Greg Vaughn was out of the starting lineup. He pinch hit in the eighth and struck out, leaving him 1-for-21 over the last seven games.