Dunn's two blasts lift Reds in opener
Slugger homers in first two at-bats; Harang strong over seven
CINCINNATI -- Left fielder Adam Dunn can't help loving Opening Day.How could he not? It's been good for him, and he's been pretty good on it for the Reds each year. Dunn's two home runs against Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano provided starting pitcher Aaron Harang and Cincinnati with an early three-run lead. The Reds went on to a 5-1 win. Since breaking into the big leagues with the Reds in 2001, Dunn has five home runs on Opening Day. In the 2005 season opener against the Mets, he had two long balls and five RBIs. "I'm just tired of Florida. I'm ready to get out [of Spring Training]," Dunn said of why many of his openers have gone well. "It's a special day. I wish every day was Opening Day." Often the cleanup hitter last season, Dunn will bat second in the Reds regular lineup this season because manager Jerry Narron wanted to split up his three lefty hitters. "I don't think batting second will change my approach," Dunn said. "I won't go up there and try to leg out a bunt. Maybe in certain situations, I may try to really force myself to get a guy over. Early in the game, I'm just going to swing it." Dunn's chance to be a run producer paid off quickly. Following Ryan Freel's leadoff walk in the first inning against Zambrano (0-1), Dunn hit a 1-2 pitch left over the plate into the right-field seats and made it a 2-0 game. In the third, Dunn jumped on a Zambrano first pitch over the inner part of the plate and smashed a 421-foot solo shot to right-center field. It gave the 27-year-old Dunn 200 career homers as he passed Barry Larkin for seventh on the club's all-time list. Following the second homer, the sold-out crowd of 42,720 fans at Great American Ball Park applauded for -- and received a curtain call from -- the slugger. "The main thing is to get on Zambrano early," Dunn said. "We were fortunate enough to do that. Guys like him only get better. If you don't get him early, you're probably not going to get him." Zambrano finished with five earned runs, six hits and five walks allowed over five innings. He struck out two.
Dunn's success against him made Harang's day a lot easier. The right-hander rolled through seven mostly sharp innings. Harang allowed one unearned run and six hits over seven innings. He walked two and struck out five."Anytime you get the lead, especially as a pitcher, it's a huge advantage," said Harang (1-0), who finished the game with 112 pitches. "You get to go out and relax and throw the game you want to throw. You don't have to worry about over pressing yourself to make the perfect pitch." "Aaron pitched great," Dunn said. "He's the one who won it. He kept us in it. He was awesome today." Harang had two jams in the game but worked out of them. In the third inning, the right-hander had runners on first and third with two outs and got Matt Murton to strike out. In the fourth with one out, Harang allowed back-to-back singles and a two-out wild pitch to Mark DeRosa. After DeRosa walked and loaded the bases, Harang got Cesar Izturis to pop out to shortstop. "The better pitchers in the big leagues have a way of getting out of jams and making pitches when they need to," Narron said. "The past couple of years, that's something he's learned how to do. He's pretty good at it." Chicago's only run against Harang came on Freel's fifth-inning throwing error. Freel missed a diving attempt on Derrek Lee's hit to center field. Freel's throw to get Murton at third base sailed wide and bounced into a camera well. Murton was permitted to score on the play. The Reds added two runs in the bottom of the fifth. Kirk Saarloos worked a scoreless eighth inning during his Reds debut. David Weathers finished the game. It was a reversal of fortunes from one year ago when the Cubs thumped the Reds with a 16-7 Opening Day defeat. Harang, who gave up nine runs (six earned) that day, went on to a 16-win season and had a breakout year. Dunn, who also homered in last year's opener, would go on to hit 40 homers for the third straight season. But it proved to be the most disappointing year of his career. He batted .234 and led the Majors with 194 strikeouts -- including a .176 (33-for-188) clip from August 1 through the end of the 2006 season. That sent Dunn home to Houston for some introspection. He returned this Spring Training vowing to be a more complete hitter. With the help of new Reds hitting coach Brook Jacoby, the new approach appeared to take hold quickly. Dunn sprayed the ball to all fields. However on Monday, Dunn still did what he does best -- hit homers. "It's still a work in progress. I still have a long way to go," Dunn said. "I'm definitely not going to slow down working on things. I could come out the next day and stink it up. But I don't plan on it."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.