Rolen erases drama as Cincinnati beats Milwaukee 4-2

Published 11:30 pm Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Associated Press

CINCINNATI — Scott Rolen let the Reds do away with the drama.

Rolen hit a two-run homer in the first inning, eliminating the need for another last-minute Cincinnati comeback and setting up a 4-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday night that kept the defending NL Central champions unbeaten.

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The Reds are 2-0 for the first time since 2005, when they swept an opening three-game series from the Mets. They beat the Brewers on opening day with a ninth-inning homer, then led the whole way in their second win before a big crowd.

“We’ll take every game we can get,” manager Dusty Baker said. “It’s a great start, going 2-0 against a team that you know is going to be there.”

Left-hander Travis Wood (1-0) preserved the lead by allowing only a run on four hits, including Erick Almonte’s solo homer, during seven innings. Wood was one of several rookie starters who played key roles in the Reds’ division title, going 5-4.

He’s the only left-hander in the rotation, moved up to the No. 2 spot because of injuries to the staff. He pitched up to his spot on Saturday.

“It’s nice to be sharp at any point in the season, but especially early,” said Wood, who didn’t walk a batter. “I was pleased with how everything went in my first outing.”

Milwaukee got an uncharacteristically wild debut from Shaun Marcum (0-1), who tied his career high with five walks in 4 2-3 innings. The Brewers are 0-2 for the first time since 2003, when they dropped their first six.

“They have a good team,” Rolen said. “You can see that on paper, but I’ve always been a big believer in getting a few games under your belt and then seeing how well you handle things.”

Francisco Cordero got his first save despite giving up Casey McGehee’s RBI single. Shortstop Edgar Renteria made a diving stop to get a forceout and help close it out.

Cincinnati was still buoyed by a pulsating 7-6 win on opening day, when Ramon Hernandez hit a three-run homer with two outs in the ninth. The Reds sold 37,967 tickets for Saturday’s game — their biggest crowd for the second game of a season in 17 years.

Two games in, that NL Central title has started to pay off at the gate.

Wood had the crowd cheering from the outset. He retired the first 11 Brewers, allowing only one ball out of the infield. Almonte led off the fifth with his second big-league homer — the 33-year-old utility player had one for the Yankees in 2003.

The Brewers beefed up their rotation by getting Marcum and Zack Greinke in the offseason. So far, it hasn’t helped.

Greinke cracked a rib during an offseason pickup basketball game. Marcum, known for his precise control, had tightness in his shoulder on March 17 and missed a start.

Marcum threw only 46 of his 83 pitches for strikes — but the defense behind him didn’t help, either.

“It was awkward,” said Marcum, who walked three of the first seven batters he faced. “I got better as the game went on. Early on maybe I tried to do too much.”w

Rolen homered on a two-strike pitch in the first inning. Drew Stubbs tripled home a run in the second and scored on second baseman Rickie Weeks’ error, a throw to first on Joey Votto’s grounder that bounced and eluded Prince Fielder.

Almonte’s homer was a rarity, coming exactly eight years after his last one. It’s the longest a major leaguer went between homers since pitcher Chan Ho Park went eight years, 208 days from 2000 to 2009.

It was the longest gap between homers for a position player since Rafael Belliard homered on April 5, 1987 for Pittsburgh and again on Sept. 26, 1997 for Atlanta, a span of 10 years, 104 days.

Notes: Almonte made his first start in RF, part of the Brewers’ plans to fill in for the injured Corey Hart. “We’ll see how it goes,” manager Ron Roenicke said. “We like the offense he gives us.” … Reds starters Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey are doing long-toss in Arizona but haven’t thrown off a mound yet. They’re recovering from shoulder problems. … Renteria, the World Series MVP, made his first start at shortstop for the Reds. Renteria was one of only three Reds who had ever faced Marcum.