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Must C Crushed: Francisco, Phillips go deep

CINCINNATI -- There were a combined seven home runs hit by the Reds and Cubs on Monday night, but only a colossal shot by Juan Francisco should create highlight buzz or water cooler discussion.

Francisco's 502-foot home run left Great American Ball Park, but there are no extra runs given for superior distance. The Reds hit a total of four long balls and still were handed a 12-8 loss by the Cubs.

"That was probably one of the longest home runs I've seen in a very long time," Reds manager Dusty Baker said.

Cincinnati was trailing, 3-0, when Francisco came to bat in the bottom of the second inning. The left-handed-slugging third baseman turned on a 1-0 slider from Cubs starter Rodrigo Lopez that became the first ball to clear the deck of right-field seats for a solo homer.

"I hit it right on the spot where I have to hit it," Francisco said through a translator. "This is the longest home run I've hit, but I've hit a lot of home runs that they didn't tell me how long they were."

The ball landed on the south side of Mehring Way and was reportedly retrieved by a worker from the stadium fireworks crew, who returned it to the Reds.

While it wasn't the first homer to leave the confines of GABP, Francisco's shot was the second longest in the ballpark's history. It trails only a 535-foot homer to the banks of the Ohio River by Adam Dunn vs. the Dodgers on Aug. 10, 2004. Francisco can also claim the longest homer in the Majors this season, topping Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder's 486-foot blast on April 29.

"That was pretty epic," Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "I can't remember a P.A. guy announcing to the crowd how far a ball went."

In an odd moment, the stadium public address announcer called out the distance of the home run before Francisco made his second plate appearance in the fourth inning.

A top prospect with a robust swing that seems destined for many deep drives, Francisco has three homers since he was made a September callup from Triple-A Louisville. He was with the big league club in April when he went on the disabled list with a strained left calf. Two days later, regular third baseman Scott Rolen also went on the DL. Francisco was hurt again and needed right knee surgery in July shortly before Rolen went on the DL a second time.

"From what I've seen, the more he plays, the better he does," Baker said. "He's an aggressive hitter. You'd rather have that than a guy who is taking all the time. You can calm him down. The guy who takes all the time, it's hard to prod him and make him swing. I like this young man's future, always have."

The 24-year-old Francisco finished his season at Louisville batting .307 with 15 homers and 50 RBIs.

"He's got crazy power," Reds rookie catcher Devin Mesoraco said. "Down at Louisville at the end, he really turned it on. He's just got to get good pitches. When he does, nobody can hit them harder or as far as he can."

That point was underscored well when Brandon Phillips took Lopez very deep to left field for a two-run shot that made it a 3-3 game. The homer traveled 459 feet to the upper deck of bleachers, but its awe factor paled in comparison.

On a night when starter Dontrelle Willis didn't have it on the mound, the Reds did not stay even for long. There was one out in the Cubs' two-run third when Jeff Baker hit a solo homer to right field.

Chicago added three more runs in the top of the fourth inning, all charged to Willis. Jared Burton was on the mound when Alfonso Soriano flared a two-run double near the left-field line that made it an 8-3 game.

Willis, who dropped to 0-6 and is winless in all 12 big league starts this season, gave up eight earned runs and nine hits over 3 1/3 innings with three walks and zero strikeouts.

"I didn't do anything right out there today, all around," Willis said. "My sequences were bad, location was bad. They had a good plan. I think they adjusted from the start before and hats off to them. It was one of those days. Even in the morning, I didn't have a good day all around."

The scoring was far from over, however, as Cincinnati and Chicago combined for seven homers in the game -- tied for the second most in GABP history. It was the second time in three games the Reds gave up 12 runs. They hit five homers on Saturday and still lost a 12-7 battle to the Rockies.

Lopez gave up two more homers, including Phillips' second of the game when he led off the fifth inning. In the bottom of the sixth, Mesoraco notched his first Major League homer with a first-pitch long ball to left field. A soldier just home from Afghanistan caught the ball and returned it to an appreciative Mesoraco.

"It was pretty special," he said. "Hopefully, there will be more meaningful home runs. That was one down by six runs. It would be more special to hit a walk-off or something that wins you the game."

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