Harang, Freel help Reds end losing skid at Arizona

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 21, 2003

PHOENIX -- Aaron Harang feels right at home in the National League. Ryan Freel feels the same about being in the big leagues.

Harang outpitched Randy Johnson, and Freel hit his first major league home run as the Cincinnati Reds snapped a nine-game losing streak at Bank One Ballpark, beating the Arizona Diamondbacks 2-0 Wednesday night.

Juan Castro had an RBI double for the Reds, who hadn't won in Phoenix since May 7, 2001.

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The loss kept the Diamondbacks from making up ground on Philadelphia in the National League wild-card race. They remained 3 1/2 games behind the Phillies, who lost to Milwaukee 10-1, with their fifth loss in seven games.

Freel, who also singled in three at-bats against Johnson, was so locked-in that the fastball he hit out didn't look overly fast.

''Big time,'' Freel said. ''You know, I was thinking the whole game, 'I got my first home run off somebody like that.' I'm excited.''

Harang (3-0) remained perfect as a starter for the Reds, who acquired him and two other pitchers from Oakland for outfielder Jose Guillen on July 30.

The right-hander, who improved to 9-7 in his career, held the Diamondbacks to four hits and no walks in seven scoreless innings. Last Thursday, he beat Arizona 3-2 in Cincinnati.

Harang pitched a 1-2-3 first inning, allowed a leadoff single to Luis Gonzalez in the second and then retired 11 in a row before Junior Spivey singled with two outs in the fifth. Spivey also stole second, but Harang got Chad Moeller, the next batter, on a grounder.

Ryan Wagner gave up a hit in the eighth and Chris Reitsma gave up a double to Alex Cintron in the ninth to complete the six-hitter.

Reitsma struck out Shea Hillenbrand with runners on first and third for his third save in eight chances.

Harang matched his career high for innings pitched, but wanted more.

''I haven't gotten an opportunity all season, or even earlier, to have that low pitch count (85) that far in the game,'' he said. ''But I guess they saw something in me and thought, 'OK, let's get these other guys in and finish this.'''

Craig Counsell and Raul Mondesi singled in the sixth and seventh, respectively, but both attempts to rally ended when the Reds turned double plays. Sean Casey started a 3-6-3 that eliminated Counsell's threat.

''That one double play we turned, the one that Casey started, was huge, and then Aaron made the pitches he had to,'' manager Dave Miley said.

Johnson (3-6) lasted six innings, giving up two runs on six hits and a walk, and striking out six. He fell to 2-4 in seven starts since spending 12 weeks on the disabled list after right-knee surgery.

But Arizona manager Bob Brenly thought Johnson pitched well enough.

''It was lack of offense,'' Brenly said. ''You give up two runs, you should have a chance to win.''

The Reds could have scored another run in the second inning but Kelly Stinnett fell rounding third.

Stinnett hit a one-out double off the center-field wall and should have scored on Ruben Mateo's bloop single that dropped in front of Luis Gonzalez in left. But Stinnett, a former Diamondback who used to catch Johnson instead of hit against him, tripped after rounding third and was out on a 7-2-5 play.

Mateo, who took second on the putout, scored on Castro's double.

''The ball does tend to find the middle of the plate a little too much,'' Johnson said. ''I'm giving up a few more hits, but the way they've been scoring their runs lately is putting multiple hits together.''

Freel, recalled from Triple-A Louisville before the game, made it 2-0 in the third when he lined a one-out solo shot into the left-field seats.

It came in his 66th at-bat, 44th in four stints with the Reds this year. The 27-year-old rookie began his career in the Toronto organization and saw all his previous big league action in 2001.

Mondesi was ejected in the ninth after he struck out and threw a bat in the direction of homeplate umpire Mike DiMuro from the dugout.

Notes: Barry Larkin played for the first time in six games since Aug. 12, when he aggravated the scar tissue from hernia surgery. The game was his 1,998th at SS, leaving him on the verge of becoming the 14th player to appear in 2,000 at the position. … Mondesi had a towering out in the first inning. It went over a steel roof beam in fair territory, but was scored as a foul pop when LF Freel caught it in foul ground. … The Reds are 33-21 when scoring first.