CIN@CLE: Paul crushes solo homer to center in ninth

CLEVELAND -- When the season started, Xavier Paul wasn't just an extra outfielder on the Reds -- he was the fifth outfielder. That meant playing time was supposed to be sparse and his chances were expected primarily as a pinch-hitter.

Injuries to left fielder Ryan Ludwick and fourth outfielder Chris Heisey changed everything. Paul has started 24 games this season and is batting .270 in those games with 10 RBIs. He has two home runs and 16 RBIs overall in 40 games.

"This is the first time I've had this much consistent playing time," Paul said on Wednesday. "I think it's been a little easier for me to maintain my rhythm and timing at the plate. It's been easier to stay in a groove more than when I'm predominantly pinch-hitting. If you have a bad night, it doesn't rest on your mind the next four or five days. You're confident about coming out the next night to make up for it."

Paul, who started again in left field vs. the Indians on Wednesday, was 3-for-4 with a two-run single during Tuesday's 8-2 win over Cleveland at Great American Ball Park.

"Unfortunately, we've had a few injuries that have given me more opportunity for playing time," said Paul, who was signed last July after being released by the Nationals. "I feel good that I've done a pretty good job of taking advantage of opportunity and doing what I can to help the team."

While the Reds have had contributions from players like Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips and great pitching of late, Paul's regular presence in the lineup hasn't hurt the club.

Cincinnati entered the night 21-3 in the games Paul has started.

"I hope it continues to go that way, but I don't want to say too much and jinx it," Paul said.

Parra wants to rely more on offspeed pitches

CLE@CIN: Parra, LeCure get Reds out of trouble

CLEVELAND -- Reds left-handed reliever Manny Parra threw only three pitches in the seventh inning of an 8-2 win over the Indians, but they were three big ones. Inheriting two runners on base with only a 3-1 lead at the time, Parra struck out left-handed-hitting Jason Kipnis with three breaking balls.

"We know that's something I needed to do to get guys off the fastball," Parra said. "Pretty much, guys were just swinging fastball. Whenever they did connect with an offspeed pitch, I felt it was more luck than anything else.

"I'm trying to gain some respect with the fact I can throw my offspeed for strikes and get ahead. If I do that, I'll be able to go back to throwing the fastball a little more and get more outs with that."

Earlier this season, it was a big struggle for Parra. In his first seven appearances, he allowed six earned runs, 16 hits, two homers and four walks in seven innings. Then he spent time on the disabled list with a strained left pectoral muscle. He returned when primary lefty setup man Sean Marshall went on the DL Friday.

"Sometimes you have to go back to the drawing board and change the strategy up a little bit," Parra said.

Reds enjoy home-and-home schedule twist

CLEVELAND -- In a quirk in the schedule this week, the Reds and Indians are playing home-and-home two-game series. In Cincinnati, the Reds won the first two games on Monday and Tuesday.

It is essentially a four-game series against Cleveland, but with a twist.

"We only have to homework like it's a four-game series. That's a plus," Reds manager Dusty Baker said on Wednesday. "But it's two different sets of games. One has the DH and one doesn't. [In Cleveland], you don't have the double switch. You can leave a pitcher out there longer than you would ordinarily."

Teams across baseball are playing similar "rivalry series," although some aren't natural geographical rivals like the pair of Ohio teams.

"It wasn't too bad for us. We didn't go too far -- 38 minutes [flight]," Baker said. "I wish we played a day game yesterday. It doesn't really matter what I like. They never ask me or us. You've just got to accept what it is. I imagine it would be tougher for some teams that had to fly longer than 38 minutes."