Owings' 3-run shot lifts Cincinnati

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 10:10 PM
Last updated 10:58 PM
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CINCINNATI – All Micah Owings needed to get on track, apparently, was to face the Atlanta Braves.

The Cincinnati right-hander hit a three-run homer and pitched six effective innings to overcome Javier Vazquez's complete game and lead the Reds to a 4-3 win over Atlanta tonight.

Owings (4-7) improved to 4-0 with a 2.77 ERA in four career starts against the Braves while hitting his third career homer – out of a total of seven – against them.

"Sometimes, you can't explain how things work," said Owings, who was 0-4 in six starts since a 3-1 win at Arizona on May 12. "I'm just going to keep working on getting better."

Jay Bruce also homered and Ryan Hanigan had two hits to help the Reds squeeze out the win despite no production from the first five batters in the lineup, who went a combined 0 for-17. The only baserunner among the top five batters was Brandon Phillips, who walked in the fourth inning, but manager Dusty Baker didn't mind.

"I wasn't counting," he said. "I was just trying to get to the finish line with the lead. We needed to get Micah a win. That was a huge performance by him – offensively and pitching-wise."

Vazquez (4-6) allowed four hits, two walks and struck out seven in eight innings. It was the 24th complete game of his career and first since a 3-2 loss to Oakland last July 3 while pitching for the White Sox. He is 0-3 in five starts since a 12-4 win over Colorado on May 20.

"It is frustrating," Vazquez said. "It happens too much. You have to keep battling out there. I feel good. When you lose a game when you feel good, it is frustrating."

Yunel Escobar had two hits, including his seventh homer of the season, but the Braves still lost their fourth consecutive game and sixth in their last seven. Atlanta outhit the Reds while losing for the second consecutive game, leaving manager Bobby Cox scratching his head.

"You pitch a four-hitter in this ballpark, you think you're going to win," Cox said. "Vazquez walked the first guy, and the next guy hits a blooper to right. In any other ballpark, that homer might have been a double. I don't know."

With the Reds trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the fifth, Jerry Hairston drew a leadoff walk and moved to third on Hanigan's second single of the game. Owings followed with his second homer of the season, reaching the first row of seats in right field.

On May 10, his pinch-hit solo home shot tied the game in the ninth inning of an eventual 8-7 loss in 10 innings to St. Louis.

"I don't think the pitch to Owings was a bad pitch, but in this ballpark, it is," Vazquez said. "This is a small stadium."

Owings, who also laid down a sacrifice bunt in the third inning, allowed two runs on six hits and two walks.

Bruce gave the Reds a 1-0 lead in the second inning with a two-out solo home run, his 16th of the season and first in 21 at bats since June 10.

Nate McLouth walked to lead off the third before Escobar homered. Escobar was hitless in his previous nine at bats and 2 for 14 in the previous five games of Atlanta's road trip.

McLouth doubled with one out in the seventh and came around to score on two wild pitches by Nick Masset. Arthur Rhodes and David Weathers shut the Braves down before Francisco Cordero pitched the ninth for his 16th save in 17 opportunities.

Cincinnati's pitchers did not record a strikeout for the first time since a 6-5 loss to the Dodgers at Los Angeles on Aug. 28, 2006.

NOTES: Before the game, the Reds placed RHP Mike Lincoln on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Saturday, with a bulging disc in his neck. RHP Josh Roenicke was recalled from Triple-A Louisville. ... Reds 1B Joey Votto, on the disabled list since May 30 with stress-related issues, was expected to leave Wednesday night for a minor-league rehab assignment. ... The Reds scored more runs while winning their last two games than they scored while losing the previous four. ... Atlanta OF Garret Anderson extended his hitting streak to seven games. ... Rhodes struck out looking to end the seventh inning in his first plate appearance since 2001, for Seattle at Colorado.


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