Kearns' bases-loaded double completes six-run rally

CINCINNATI (AP) -- By beating up on baseball's best, the
Cincinnati Reds have started to make some believers.

Austin Kearns' bases-loaded double completed a six-run rally,
and Adam Dunn hit his major league-leading 17th homer Wednesday
night for a 9-3 victory that slowed the Atlanta Braves' remarkable

A crowd of 33,355 -- the largest at Great American Ball Park
since Opening Day -- reveled as the Reds won for the 11th time in 15
games, a streak that includes six wins over St. Louis and now two
over the Braves.

There was good reason for the revelry. The Reds hadn't won
consecutive home games against Atlanta since September 1996, when
they were playing at Riverfront Stadium.

"I don't really take a step back and look at it," said Kearns,
who has driven in seven runs in the first two games of the series.
"I'm just having so much fun. We're winning, this is a great group
of guys, and the fans are getting into it."

By dropping the first two games, the Braves lost back-to-back
games for the first time since April 11-12. Atlanta (31-15) had won
its last 10 series, a streak that translated into the best record
in baseball.

The spurt ended with a meltdown by starter Mike Hampton (2-2)
and another ejection for manager Bobby Cox, who turned 62.

Afterward, Cox was still fuming at plate umpire Kerwin Danley's
ball-and-strike calls and the slope of the mound at the Reds' new
ballpark, which was measured and approved by baseball officials
before the series began.

"I don't want to make excuses, but that mound ..." Cox said.
"The relievers were saying their foot was hitting the mound before
it should be hitting. It's (the Reds') mound. They can do what they
want with it."

Trailing 3-0, the Reds sent 10 batters to the plate for six runs
in the fourth. Hampton walked three in the inning, throwing 34
pitches before being replaced with two outs, the score tied and the
bases loaded.

Hampton was particularly upset with a full-count pitch to Barry
Larkin that Danley called a ball.

"It was down the middle," Hampton said. "I don't know what he
thought. I was walking guys and throwing bad pitches. Then when I
throw a good pitch, it's called a ball."

Cox said something to Danley as he returned to the dugout and
got his fifth ejection of the season and his second in two nights.
Plate umpire Bill Welke ejected him for arguing over
ball-and-strike calls in the Reds' 9-8 win on Tuesday.

Kevin Gryboski replaced Hampton and went to a full count on
Kearns, who doubled to the wall in center for three more runs and a
career-high 15-game hitting streak.

"It just seems like I'm getting up with guys on base and
getting good pitches to hit," Kearns said.

Dunn had a pinch-hit, three-run shot in the eighth off Jung Keun
Bong, extending the Reds' streak to 15 consecutive games with a
homer. It's the third-longest streak in Cincinnati's history -- the
1956 club homered in 21 in a row, and the 1955 team went 17
consecutive games.

Chris Reitsma (3-1) took over for starter John Riedling and held
the NL's top offense to two hits over four innings.

Larkin left the game after the fourth with a strained right
calf. Larkin, 39, was on the disabled list from April 14 to May 5
after he strained his other calf. He'll have tests on Thursday,and
the Reds will decide whether to put him back on the disabled list
or let him try to get healthy while playing.

"That's really the dilemma," manager Bob Boone said.

Atlanta has been nearly unbeatable when it gets the early lead.
The Braves had won the last 16 games when they scored first, and
were 20-1 overall with the game's first lead.

They went up 3-0 against Riedling, a reliever-turned-starter who
gave up five hits and three runs in four innings. Mark DeRosa
singled home a run in the third, and Robert Fick doubled home a run
and Hampton had an RBI single an inning later.

Game notes
Hampton hadn't lost to the Reds since June 24, 1999, going
3-0 in his last four starts against them. ... 2B Marcus Giles was
out of the Braves lineup with a bruised calf, suffered when he
fouled a ball off his leg in the series opener. He was available to
pinch-hit. ... RF Gary Sheffield extended his hitting streak to
nine games. 3B Vinny Castilla extended his streak to eight. ...
Reds OF Wily Mo Pena pinch-hit in the fourth and grounded into a
run-scoring forceout in the fourth for his first RBI. He's 1-for-19
(.053) this season with eight strikeouts, hitting worse than six
Reds pitchers. ... In his four starts, Riedling is 0-2 with a 5.89