LaRue leads Reds' offensive outburst
Catcher tallies career-high six RBIs; Belisle notches save
SAN FRANCISCO -- Matt Belisle has worn the tag of "utility pitcher" all season.He's arrived at the ballpark to find out he's that day's starter. He's been thrown in and out of the rotation. He's performed mop-up duty. He's tossed in lost causes. But what he had never done, up until Monday's 11-10 win over the Giants at SBC Park, was close out a game. And he loved his first taste of the role. "The easiest way to put it is that it was fun," he said. "Different kind of blood flow, you know? The juices were definitely going." Belisle might end up sipping on them with regularity. Ever since May 22 -- the day Danny Graves gave up five ninth-inning runs to the Indians and gestured to a fan in his final performance in Cincinnati -- the Reds have been a team without a closer. But interim manager Jerry Narron hinted that Belisle could very well be given the job, especially after the performance he put up in this victory. Sent in to protect a one-run lead with the tying run at second base and none out, Belisle calmly retired all three batters he faced. "He was fearless out there," Narron said. "That was a legit save. We all know he wants the ball. We're still going to try to give him some matchups, but we will not be afraid to bring him in to start the ninth inning." Sign Belisle up. "If that's the role they want and have confidence in me to help them win ballgames, let's go for it," he said. "I have confidence in my ability, whatever they want me to do." Belisle was probably one of few pitchers to come out of this game with much confidence. This was a shootout from the start. And it wasn't much of a spot start for right-hander Elizardo Ramirez, freshly called up from Triple-A Louisville. The plan had already been to send Ramirez back down after the game, regardless of the outcome, and he certainly didn't do much to change that idea. He was pounded early and often by the Giants' bats, to the tune of seven runs on eight hits in just 3 2/3 innings. It hardly mattered, though, because the Reds were doing some pounding of their own against Kirk Rueter. Jason LaRue knocked in three early runs, including a two-run home run in the third, en route to a career-high six RBIs. Ken Griffey Jr. hit a solo shot in the third for his first career homer on the Fourth of July. And Wily Mo Pena slapped a three-run home run in the fourth to ensure Ramirez wouldn't be sent back to the Minors with a loss. "We got down early and battled," Narron said. "Just battled." The battle shifted in the Reds' favor permanently in the sixth, when Rich Aurilia scored from third on a passed ball and LaRue laced a three-run double to right off reliever LaTroy Hawkins to make it 11-8. That was the last highlight in a pretty productive day for LaRue. "It's the most RBIs I've ever had in a big-league game, so obviously it's huge," LaRue said. "I don't know what to say. I'm not a man of a lot of words." But LaRue would have plenty of words about Belisle after the 25-year-old put this win to bed. The Giants ensured that Belisle would have his work cut out for him by making it 11-9 on J.T. Snow's RBI double in the sixth and 11-10 on Pedro Feliz's and Moises Alou's back-to-back doubles off Kent Mercker in the ninth. That's how Belisle found himself with the ball in a situation he had never encountered. It's one he handled quite well. Belisle got Ray Durham to ground out to first, forced Deivi Cruz to pop out weakly to short -- on a breaking ball Belisle deemed "awful," for the record -- and retired Jason Ellison on a hard sinker that resulted in a groundout to short. That was the ballgame. Then came the praise for Belisle. "I don't know too many people that have a bigger heart or a bigger passion to play this game, day in and day out," LaRue said. "I don't know many people that work harder. He wants the ball in big situations like that. "It's huge to see a kid, especially as young as he is, to be as mature as he is, to be able to learn and take in things. He probably has some of the best stuff on this team. He could find himself in that closer's role soon. Because he's got the stuff to do it." Narron certainly seemed to agree, and Belisle seemed up to the task. "I have complete confidence in my ability to adapt," Belisle said. "Coming in, getting the save, keeping the game close with the fans pumping like that ... It was awesome."
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.