Reds power past Pirates to win series
Encarnacion has breakout game as lineup shows improvement
PITTSBURGH -- Through 2 2/3 innings Sunday afternoon, it appeared as if Aaron Harang didn't have his best stuff.And the Reds ace didn't, by his own admission. But the right-hander regrouped and finished strong in Cincinnati's 9-5 victory over Pittsburgh at PNC Park. Harang (4-0) went eight innings as the Reds' offense built on Saturday's hit parade en route to the team's second consecutive victory. "I think all of us that have seen him pitch know that he's had better stuff, at times," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "But it was great to see him get a win and great to see our guys swing the bats." Edwin Encarnacion was 3-for-4 with three RBIs, Alex Gonzalez went 2-for-3 with three runs scored and a home run, Brandon Phillips went 3-for-5 with two RBIs and Adam Dunn hit his sixth homer as the Reds built on Saturday's 8-1 win over Pittsburgh.
Harang, who allowed four runs on seven hits through three innings, faced only one over the minimum during the next five innings. And that was only because of a wild pitch after he struck out Jack Wilson.
"After [Pittsburgh's three-run] second inning, I just wanted to be effective and keep my pitches down, move the ball around in the zone," Harang said. "The offense gave me some support, I was able to ... keep them off balance."Harang was lifted after Ryan Doumit homered to lead off the ninth. Harang finished with nine strikeouts on 114 pitches, allowing 10 hits and one walk. "Sometimes you're not going to have your best stuff, and you just gotta go out there and battle," Harang said. "I was able to do that and keep us in the game, and we were able to come back and jump ahead and stay ahead." Trailing, 4-1, heading into the fourth, Cincinnati exploded for five runs.
Jeff Conine led off the fourth with a single, and Gonzalez and Dunn walked to load the bases. Encarnacion followed with a bases-clearing triple. With one out, Harang delivered an RBI single, and Phillips hit an RBI double with two outs."Everybody is coming around right now, everybody's swinging the bat good," said Encarnacion, who has five hits in his last eight at-bats after snapping an 0-for-11 skid Saturday. "We've got a lot of discipline at the plate. We are starting to see pitches in the strike zone, and that's how we can get better with the bat." Pirates starter Paul Maholm (1-3) lasted just four innings, his shortest outing of the season. Despite retiring the side 1-2-3 in the first and second innings, nine of the last 15 batters to face Maholm reached base.
The Reds added two more in the fifth on Dunn's homer to center field off Shawn Chacon. Dunn passed Eric Davis for sixth place on the all-time Reds home run list. It was Dunn's 204th career homer. George Foster is fifth in club history with 244.
"[Hitting] goes in cycles, and I don't think this is a team that's going to struggle to score runs," Dunn said. "We have [struggled] early this year. But I don't think people like Eddie [Encarnacion] and Brandon and [David Ross] are going to struggle for very long, because they are good hitters."Gonzalez made it 9-4 in the seventh with his third home run of the season, a shot to left field. He has reached base safely in each of the six games on the road trip, batting .520 with three homers, nine runs scored and six RBIs.
"Gonzalez is a much better offensive player than people give him credit for," Narron said. "Where we're hitting him in the order [fifth], I think that might be helping him a bit, too. He's got some guys behind him that are able to hit the ball a little bit."Encarnacion, meanwhile, has raised his average from .174 to .221 the past two games. It is the first time since April 13 that his average has been above .200 "It was only a matter of time before he broke out and started swinging the bat," Narron said. "It's nice to see him break out like he did." After the game, the Reds took a flight to Houston and will be off Monday before opening a three-game series against the Astros on Tuesday. "I'd love to be playing tomorrow with the way we swung the bats today," Narron said.
Chris Adamski is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.