Phillips sparks Reds win

Published 11:03 pm Saturday, August 27, 2011

CINCINNATI (AP) — This new slot is working wonders for Brandon Phillips.

Phillips got two more hits in the leadoff spot and the Cincinnati Reds reached .500 for the first time since early July with a 6-3 win over the Washington Nationals on Saturday night.

Phillips scored twice and drove in a run. He’s gotten a hit in 10 straight games at the top of the lineup, going 19 for 43 (.442) with 10 RBIs and nine runs in that span.

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Phillips recently asked manager Dusty Baker to put him in the leadoff spot after hitting second and fourth.

“I went to him and said, ’Hey, Dust, let’s try something different,”’ Phillips said. “I felt comfortable hitting there last year. Why not try something that got us going last year.”

Injuries, in particular one to cleanup hitter Scott Rolen, forced the Reds to alter their lineup this season.

Mike Leake (11-8) gave up two runs in six innings, and leads the team in wins.

“The last time I played them they hit too many balls in the air. I made some mistakes this time and they made me pay. They were fouling off a lot of pitches but I wasn’t giving in to them,” Leake said.

He allowed five earned runs to them in six innings 12 days ago.

Cincinnati (66-66) has won six of eight and is at .500 for the first time since the NL Central champions were 44-44 on July 6. Drew Stubbs went 3 for 3 with a sacrifice fly.

Nationals first baseman Chris Marrero committed two key errors in his major league debut as Washington lost its fifth in a row, one short of its season high.

“They helped us early,” Baker said. “We took advantage of it. We were aggressive tonight.”

Phillips led off the bottom of the first with a sharp grounder to Marrero, who let the first ball hit to him as a big leaguer get through for an error. Phillips went to second on Dave Sappelt’s sacrifice, to third on Joey Votto’s groundout to Marrero and scored on Ross Detwiler’s wild pitch.

The Reds have lost 28 one-run decisions this season. Many of those games would have turned around with a sacrifice fly. The three the Reds hit tonight trumped Washington’s three home runs.

“We are doing the little things now like we did last year,” Phillips said.

Baker would like the Reds to make it a habit.

“Hopefully, we’re learning,” Baker said. “We needed to get better at picking runners up with less than two outs.”

The Nationals took a 2-1 lead in the third on Wilson Ramos’ 12th home run of the season and second in two nights, and Jayson Werth’s 16th homer.

Marrero’s second error led to Cincinnati’s three-run fourth. Phillips opened with a single and Sappelt also singled. Marrero fielded Votto’s possible double-play grounder, but his throw to second sailed into left field, allowing Phillips to score from second despite having to go back and tag third after missing it on his first try.

Bruce walked to load the bases and Miguel Cairo and Drew Stubbs each hit a sacrifice fly.

The Reds made it 6-2 in the sixth. Cairo doubled and stole third but had to hold as pulled-in shortstop Ian Desmond speared Stubbs’ sharp one-hopper. Desmond jumped up and threw to third trying to catch Cairo off the bag, but Cairo got back in time, setting up Edgar Renteria’s sacrifice fly.

Detwiler (2-4) allowed just three earned runs among his overall six. He struck out four and walked one in six innings.

Michael Morse added a 438-foot solo home run into the upper deck in left field off of Reds reliever Sam LeCure in the eighth.

Bill Bray got the final out of the eighth and Francisco Cordero pitched the ninth for his 29th save and 12th straight since the All-Star break.

NOTES: Marrero, Washington’s top pick and the overall No. 15 selection in the 2006 draft, was recalled from Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday. He singled cleanly to left in the fourth for his first major league hit. … Werth started in center field for the first time this season as manager Davey Johnson started looking at different combinations. … Reds OF Chris Heisey was sent to Triple-A Louisville on a rehab assignment. He has been out since Aug. 7 with a strained left oblique. … Cincinnati RHP Johnny Cueto goes into Sunday’s start leading the league with a 2.03 ERA and holding opponents to a league-best .203 batting average. … RHP Jordan Zimmerman’s start against Cincinnati on Sunday is expected to be his last of the season. He’s likely to reach the cap on innings set for him by management.