Expos rout Reds to end skid at 6

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 1, 2000

The Associated Press

Cincinnati – Given what the Montreal Expos have been through lately, this was a godsend.

Thursday, June 01, 2000

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Cincinnati – Given what the Montreal Expos have been through lately, this was a godsend. Six consecutive losses. An eighth pitcher headed for the disabled list. An offense that stranded 50 runners in seven games.

All the ominous trends ended Wednesday night in a 10-4 victory over the Cincinnati Reds that was more of a relief than anything else. Vladimir Guerrero hit a pair of solo homers and an injury-ravaged pitching staff got a big lift from its bullpen.

”You like to win some games and have a more stable situation with your ballclub,” manager Felipe Alou said. ”You want to have good news and right now, we’re not getting a lot of good news. We had a guy operated on today and I don’t know how many surgeries we’ve had this year.”

When Hideki Irabu underwent surgery for torn cartilage in his knee Wednesday, the Expos had their 10th player overall on the disabled list.

He was supposed to start Wednesday. Instead, Alou turned to reliever Mike Johnson (1-0), who had a 7.43 ERA and hadn’t started a game in the majors since last August.

”We had to scratch a guy who was supposed to be our savior and go with a guy from the bullpen,” Alou said. ”You have to stop a six-game losing streak against the Cincinnati Reds. At 4 o’clock this afternoon, it didn’t look very good.”

Johnson made things look up right away. He gave one of the best performances of his career, allowing only a pair of first-inning hits and striking out a career-high seven batters in five innings.

The right-hander retired the last 13 batters he faced, a streak that Dustin Hermanson stretched to 21 in a row before Aaron Boone hit a solo homer in the eighth.

”I had all my pitches working,” Johnson said. ”It was just one of those special nights that you try not to take for granted. It was fun being out there knowing that at any time, you can throw any one of your pitches for a strike.”

He threw ’em all for strikes – fastball, curve, slider, changeup – for as long as he could before tiring out.

”I don’t think he’s that good, but he did a good job with his breaking ball and we haven’t been hitting,” Reds manager Jack McKeon said.

Like the Expos, the Reds have been struggling on offense lately. Ken Griffey Jr. went 0-for-3, leaving him hitless in his last 14 at-bats. A 4-for-40 skid overall has dropped his average to .212.

He’s not alone. Sean Casey is in a 2-for-23 slump and Pokey Reese has only two hits in his last 17 at-bats.

The Expos emerged from their slump behind Guerrero, who led off the second with a solo homer and led off the ninth with another. His third two-homer game of the season raised his average to .386 and gave him more homers (15-to-14) and more RBIs (44-to-38) than Griffey.

”I’ve said it before: He’s got a chance to be the most exciting player in baseball in the next few years,” McKeon said. ”He may be the best now. I like the way he hustles out there.”

Once Guerrero got the offense rolling, it hardly slowed down. Jose Vidro drove in four runs and Peter Bergeron matched his career high with four hits, all singles. Montreal matched its season high with 16 hits.

Steve Parris (2-7) gave up four runs in 5 1-3 innings to a team he had dominated in his three previous starts. Parris had allowed only four runs in 23 1-3 innings while going 3-0 career against Montreal.

Parris, who had a career-high 11 wins last season, has been throwing too few strikes. On Wednesday, he threw 61 strikes in 86 pitches and lost again.

”When I was throwing a lot of balls, that didn’t work,” Parris said. ”Throwing a lot of strikes didn’t work, either.

”I know 2-7 looks terrible, but have I pitched that badly? No. I think with a couple of pitches going a different way, I could be 4-4. But it hasn’t worked out.”

<B>Notes:<B> Hermanson made seven starts before moving into the bullpen to fill in for injured closer Ugueth Urbina. He threw 40 pitches Wednesday as Alou tried to get him back into starting shape for next week, when he returns to the rotation. … In addition to putting Irabu on the 15-day DL, the Expos called up RHP Matt Skrmetta from Triple-A Ottawa. … Reds backup outfielder Alex Ochoa went for tests right before the game that found an inflamed appendix. He was scheduled for surgery overnight and is expected to miss three weeks. The Reds gave no indication who would take his place.