Two is Enough
CINCINNATI — Brandon Phillips made the most of one of the few scoring opportunities for the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday.
Phillips hit a tying triple with two out in the fifth inning and scored the tiebreaking run on shortstop Alex Gonzalez’s error, helping the Reds beat the Atlanta Braves 2-1 in the rubber game of the weekend series.
Ramon Hernandez was on first when Phillips lifted a fly ball down the right-field line that eluded a diving Jason Heyward and bounced into the corner. Orlando Cabrera followed with a routine grounder to Gonzalez, but the former Reds infielder dropped the ball, and Phillips scored while Cabrera easily beat the throw to first.
“I thought Heyward was going to catch it,” Phillips said. “I said, ’Watch him catch it. Watch him catch hit. Ooh, snap, it’s time to run.’ I knew if he didn’t catch it, it would be a triple. I knew, when I got in, that it was game over. ’Gonzie’ never makes an error.”
The NL East-leading Braves have lost three of four and went 3-6 on their 10-day trip, earning one win at each stop. They wasted a solid outing by Tommy Hanson (8-8), who allowed an earned run and five hits in 7 1-3 innings.
The Reds have won three of four and open a six-game trip on Monday in Pittsburgh. They remained a half-game behind NL Central-leading St. Louis, which beat Pittsburgh 9-1.
“We haven’t had a 2-1 victory here in a long, long time,” Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker said.
Rick Ankiel started in center field and went 0 for 3 with a walk in his first game with Atlanta. The Braves acquired Ankiel and reliever Kyle Farnsworth from Kansas City on Saturday.
Edinson Volquez was wild in five effective innings for Cincinnati, walking five and hitting a batter but yielding just one run. The right-hander also struck out seven and allowed three hits while throwing 96 pitches in his fourth major league start since undergoing elbow surgery last August.
“I think it’s coming,” Volquez said. “I feel good. This is part of the process. In my mind, I feel good. I have to put everything together. Command is the last step.”
Volquez (2-1) has issued 13 walks in 11 innings over his last three starts, but Baker thinks the former All-Star is on the right track.
“He had good stuff,” Baker said. “It was mostly his command again that pushed his pitch count higher.”
Bobby Cox, who managed his last regular-season game in Cincinnati, lamented Atlanta’s lost opportunities. The Braves left 11 men on base and were 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position.
“We couldn’t take advantage,” said Cox, who has announced he will retire after this season. “They gave us a lot of opportunities with bases on balls. We need to pick it up and start hitting a bit.”
Jordan Smith, Bill Bray and Nick Masset each pitched an inning before Francisco Cordero finished for his 29th save. Cordero pitched in each game of the series.
Gonzalez started the second inning with a drive to left on an 0-2 pitch. Gonzalez, acquired from Toronto on July 14, snapped a 0-for-18 slump with his first homer since July 10.
Hanson struck out five and walked one, dropping to 0-3 with a 2.55 ERA in his last four starts.
“I felt good from the get-go, even warming up,” said Hanson, who threw 92 pitches. “I felt, at any point, I could throw the pitch I needed — even to the last batter.”
NOTES: The Reds optioned reliever Carlos Fisher to Triple-A Louisville after the game. RHP Russ Springer is expected to join the team Monday. … Farnsworth also was in uniform but didn’t pitch. … Cincinnati CF Drew Stubbs rested after going 0 for 4 with three strikeouts Saturday, extending his string of hitless at-bats to 10. Stubbs is mired in a 1-for-36 skid overall. … The crowd of 40,871 was the third sellout of the series, lifting the overall attendance to 122,855, the most for a three-game weekend series at Great American Ball Park since it opened in 2003.