ST. PETERSBURG -- When Reds right fielder Jay Bruce connected for a big ninth-inning home run Tuesday night vs. the Rays, he was aware that it ended a personal drought.
Bruce had gone 22 games and 84 at-bats without a homer, the second-longest power outage of his career.
"I've said in the past I don't try to hit [homers], but it's always nice when you do. It's been a while, obviously," Bruce said. "Hitting comes first. It's my first priority. I haven't had a good month in June, everyone knows that -- it's obvious. I'm just going to continue working to get better, and home runs will come as they come."
Bruce hit .342 with 12 homers and 33 RBIs in May to capture National League Player of the Month honors, but entered Wednesday batting .227 with two homers and seven RBIs in June.
It's the ultimate reminder of how a big league baseball season can take more twists and turns, and ups and downs, like "The Beast" roller coaster at Kings Island.
- 131 wins
- 121 wins
"It's definitely frustrating, but you can't give in to that -- the frustration, or the questions they may pose, and you can't try to force it to happen," Bruce said. "You have to continue to stick to a solid approach and know that consistency in the key. Being consistent is my goal. So far, I've been pretty inconsistent with my career, and that's frustrating, because I know what's there. I know what I can do and what I'm capable of."
Bruce still ranks third in the NL with 18 homers, and eighth in RBIs (51) and total bases (151). He entered Wednesday's finale with the Rays batting .274 with a .343 on-base percentage.
"Like I said in May, I don't expect to hit .340 every month with 12 home runs," Bruce added. "That's pretty unrealistic. But having a June like this frustrating."
Bruce wasn't given respite from his rough month during Wednesday's 4-3 victory, as he went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.
Hanigan returns to lineup for series finale
ST. PETERSBURG -- After sitting out since Saturday because of a sore lat muscle near his back, catcher Ryan Hanigan was back in the Reds' lineup on Wednesday and came up big with a three-run home run in the 4-3 win.
With two outs in the fourth inning and two on, Hanigan sent a 2-1 curveball from James Shields over the fence in left field. It was his first homer since he hit two on April 3.
"I was trying to relax and get some pitches I could handle. He's tough," Hanigan said. "He changes speeds and he's a tough guy to sit on pitches with, because he's got four quality pitches. I was seeing the ball. He threw one up in the zone, and I was back on it, and I put a good swing on it."
Ramon Hernandez had caught the last three games, and Reds manager Dusty Baker had hoped Hanigan would be ready for the finale of the road trip.
"It's perfect timing, because it's day after night, we have an off-day tomorrow," Baker said.
Hernandez usually catches Reds starter Edinson Volquez, but with Volquez struggling of late, having Hanigan behind the plate wasn't an attempt to shake up the battery for better results.
"It doesn't matter that much who is catching who, the pitcher has the ball in his hand," Baker said. "He still has to throw it to the glove. [Hanigan] usually catches Arroyo, and when Arroyo was struggling, no one asked about catching Ramon for Arroyo."
Left-handed pitcher Matt Maloney, on the 60-day disabled list because of a broken rib, threw off the mound on Wednesday in Cincinnati. Maloney threw 35 pitches and reported no issues.
Brandon Phillips entered Wednesday with 997 career hits, and Edgar Renteria was near his own round number with 899 RBIs.