Powering up: Reds cruise past Crew
Votto, Bruce pace seven-homer attack; Ramirez grabs first win
CINCINNATI -- Joey Votto and Jay Bruce are teammates on the field and good friends both on and off of it. And yes, the Reds' rookies aren't afraid to admit, they are competing with each other, too."Very, very much so," Votto said. "There's a little half-smirk or something after somebody does something. It's one-upmanship. [Bruce] is one of those guys that's so good that it's nice to have someone at that level to compete with." There were plenty of "top that" moments Friday night. Part of a seven-homer barrage as the Reds inflicted an 11-2 pounding on the Brewers, Votto and Bruce exchanged home run trots with two long balls each. It brought both of their season totals to 21 blasts, tying them for second all-time among Reds rookies. "It's a friendly competition," Bruce said. "We push each other subconsciously. We have a good time and play the game hard and let our abilities take care of itself. He's a great guy to be on the team with." "That's what you want," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "You want those guys close. There is no envy or jealousy involved." Brewers starter Jeff Suppan (10-10) lasted only two innings and it took him 17 pitches to record his first out. There were two on when Votto hit Suppan's first pitch into the right-field seats for his first homer. Two batters later, with a runner on first base, Bruce went deep for the first time with a two-run shot to right field that made it a 5-0 game. Votto upped the ante and won the distance battle. Facing lefty Manny Parra while leading off the third, the first baseman crushed a 462-foot home run near the top of the right-field moon deck for No. 21 of the season. "A homer is a homer," Votto said. "He hit two. I hit two." In the seventh, Bruce got his second with a drive to left-center field against reliever Tim Dillard. It was his eighth homer in September. "It's good to see both of them matching each other," Baker said. "It shows how bright our future is, and how bright their future is for us." It's been a solid rookie season for both hitters. Had the Cubs' Geovany Soto not entered in the picture, Votto might get more consideration for National League Rookie of the Year. Besides his 21 homers, he's batting .287 with 76 RBIs and a .361 on-base percentage in 142 games. Bruce is batting .260 with 52 RBIs over his 101 games. In the fourth, Jerry Hairston Jr. went deep to left field for a two-run homer and an 8-0 lead. Jolbert Cabrera led off the fifth with a high drive into the left-field bleachers, and pinch-hitter Andy Phillips sent a first pitch into the left-center-field bullpen in the sixth. The seven-homer game tied the Reds' record at Great American Ball Park previously set May 7 against the Cubs. All of this made for a smoother evening for starter Ramon Ramirez, who pitched six innings and earned his first Major League win. Ramirez (1-0) gave up two earned runs and seven hits with two walks and five strikeouts during a well-pitched game. Ramirez has three quality starts under his belt and a 2.45 ERA in four games covering 22 innings. When teams are out of contention and playing out the schedule -- like the Reds -- a positive final month can often be tagged with the disclaimer, "it's September," because the pressure is off while the heat is still on the contenders they've been playing. Then again, it's been a really good September for the Reds. Friday's win gave them a 10-6 record for the month. "It's still a tricky month, but hey, we'll take success whenever we can get it no matter what month it is," Baker said. "We're working on a winning month. That's what you want." The Reds have won five of their past six games and eight of their past 11. The teams they have beaten are the NL Central Division-leading Cubs, the contending Brewers, the D-backs, the Cardinals and, again, the Brewers -- a club that fell to 4-14 in September with Friday's loss. "You can't ask for anything more," Bruce said. "We're beating good teams. If we do lose, we drop one that's close. We've been playing some really good baseball. It's hopefully a sign of really good things to come."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.