Moeller#039;s cycle leaves Reds spinning

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 28, 2004

MILWAUKEE - Chad Moeller was just trying to finish the game. He ended up hitting for the cycle.

Fighting muscle aches and chills, the unheralded Milwaukee catcher had the best game of his career in the Brewers' 9-8 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday night.

''I really do feel under the weather,'' Moeller said. ''My whole focus was really just getting through nine innings behind the plate somehow, some way. It probably helped me out because I didn't think about anything except just three more outs, or six more outs.''

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The Brewers rallied from an 8-6 deficit in the ninth inning, and won on pinch-hitter Bill Hall's two-out, two-run homer off closer Danny Graves. Moeller was in the dugout tunnel near a heater when he saw Hall's line drive leave the park on television.

''If we would have gone extra (innings), it would have been a real battle for me,'' Moeller said. ''I don't know if I would have made it through.''

Hall's home run made sure he didn't have to.

''Those are the times when you have your best games,'' Hall said. ''It means you are not trying to do as much.''

Moeller homered in the second, doubled in the fourth, tripled in the fifth and singled in the seventh, becoming the first Brewers player to complete the cycle since Paul Molitor in 1991.

Obtained from Arizona last offseason in the Richie Sexson trade, Moeller is the fifth Brewers player to accomplish the feat.

Molitor, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this summer, did it on May 15, 1991, at Minnesota, when Milwaukee was in the American League.

The other Brewers to hit for the cycle were Hall of Famer Robin Yount on June 12, 1988, at Chicago; Charlie Moore on Oct. 1, 1980, at California; and Mike Hegan on Sept. 3, 1976, at Detroit.

''It's pretty darn cool to be in that company,'' Moeller said. ''They are some of the best that have ever played the game. I am nowhere even in the ZIP code of being with those guys. But with this one little silly stat I am.''

The Reds took an 8-6 lead into the bottom of the ninth, but Graves (0-2) blew his third save in 13 chances. Cincinnati's shaky fielding kept the Brewers in it.

Wes Helms reached on an infield single with one out, advanced to second on a wild pitch and to third on a throwing error by catcher Jason LaRue.

Moeller's grounder to third with two outs could have ended the game, but Brandon Larson short-hopped the throw to first for an error that made it 8-7.

It was Cincinnati's fifth error of the game.

Hall followed with a liner over the left-center wall, and the second-smallest crowd in Miller Park history (8,918) went wild. Hall was mobbed at home plate by his teammates.

''Once it got to 2-0, I was selling out and trying to drive one,'' Hall said. ''You only get one chance.''

Moeller was happy to see it.

''That would have been really disappointing, to have a good day but all you remember is how the day finishes,'' Moeller said.

Jeff Bennett (1-0) got his first major league win for the Brewers.

Moeller's first three hits came against starter Cory Lidle. Moeller completed the cycle with a single off reliever Ryan Wagner, prompting a standing ovation from the sparse crowd.

Moeller, who drove in four runs, entered the game in a 3-for-24 slump. He's the first Brewers player to hit for the cycle at home, and just the second big league player to do it in Milwaukee. Gary Ward was the first on Sept. 18, 1980, for Minnesota.

The last major league catcher to accomplish the feat was Pittsburgh's Jason Kendall on May 19, 2000, against St. Louis, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

''I wanted to win that game as much for Chad as I did anything else,'' Brewers manager Ned Yost said. ''That's a huge accomplishment. You can't celebrate it like you need to when you lose. It doesn't mean near as much.''

LaRue's three-run homer tied it in the sixth, and Barry Larkin's RBI double gave the Reds a 7-6 lead.

Moeller's bases-loaded triple off the right-center fence put Milwaukee ahead 6-3 in the fifth.

Junior Spivey tied it at 3 with a solo homer.

Just 11 pitches into the game, Cincinnati grabbed the lead on a two-run double off the left-center wall by Ken Griffey Jr.

Griffey scored on a wild pitch in the ninth to make it 8-6.

Notes: Moeller entered the game hitting .200 with one home run and five RBIs. … Reds reliever Phil Norton left in the sixth inning with a bruised left quadriceps after colliding with first baseman Sean Casey. … The smallest crowd in Miller Park history was 8,703 against Cincinnati last Sept. 2. The ballpark opened in 2001.