CINCINNATI (AP) -- Jason LaRue's meaningful moments have been few
and far-between this season. The timing on his latest was perfect.
LaRue's one-out homer in the 11th inning sent the Cincinnati
Reds to a 5-4 victory over the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night
and tightened the NL playoff race.
When it looked like Cincinnati was about to fade away, LaRue
provided a win that kept the Reds thinking there's still enough
time to elbow their way back to the front of the pack of
"It's been that way all year," manager Jerry Narron said.
"Every time the wheels start to fall off, we come back and win a
couple. This is a league of runs, and we're capable of putting
together a solid run."
Cincinnati won for only the fifth time in its last 16 games,
moving 2½ games behind San Diego for the NL wild card. Four teams
are now bunched within 2½ games of the Padres.
"You'd figure at this point you'd be getting some clear
scenarios for some teams, but that's just not the case," said San
Diego's Mike Piazza, who hit a solo homer. "We just have to hang
in there. Teams can pick up ground or lose ground quickly."
LaRue had an awkward swing-and-miss on the first pitch from Doug
Brocail (2-2), then connected on the next pitch for his eighth
homer. LaRue, batting only .180, got into the 3-hour, 34-minute
game in the late innings.
Scott Schoeneweis (1-0) escaped a threat in the 10th to get the
Sensing the importance of the series, the Reds offered
half-price tickets and $1 hot dogs, hoping to draw big crowds. They
sold only 15,820 tickets for the opener, which started on time
after a daylong rain.
"People talk about how this is the biggest series of the year,
but it's not going to mean anything if we win the series and then
[self-destruct] the rest of the way," LaRue said.
Both starters were out of the game after five innings, leaving
it up to the bullpens.
Padres right-hander Chris Young got a no-decision that preserved
his unbeaten streak on the road. Young left for a pinch-hitter
during a three-run rally that put San Diego up 4-3 in the sixth
Rich Aurilia hit a three-run homer off Young, who is 6-0 with a
2.69 ERA in 13 road starts this season. Young, obtained in an
offseason trade with Texas, hasn't lost in his last 22 road starts,
the longest such streak in the majors since Greg Maddux went 22
without a loss in 1997-98.
Reds starter Eric Milton left the game after five innings
because of a stiff left elbow. For the third time in his last five
starts, the bullpen cost him a victory. Terrmel Sledge's pinch-hit
single off Rheal Cormier completed the three-run rally that put the
Padres up 4-3 in the sixth.
Scott Linebrink gave up a tying run in the eighth, when Edwin
Encarnacion scored from third while the Padres futilely tried to
turn a double play on Brandon Phillips' grounder. Encarnacion stole
third base to set up the run, barely beating the throw.
"That was a bold move, and it was a turning point in the
game," manager Bruce Bochy said. "I thought we had him.
Obviously, we didn't. It was a real close play and he just got in
Padres reliever Cal Meredith escaped a bases-loaded threat in
the sixth and extended an impressive streak of his own. The
right-hander hasn't been scored upon in his last 28 appearances
spanning 33 2/3 innings, a club record.
Piazza's homer was the 418th of his career. Next on the
list is Billy Williams in 38th place with 426. ... Piazza leads
major league catchers with 21 homers. ... The top three batters in
San Diego's order went 0-for-14. ... Adrian Gonzalez tied his
career high with four hits. ... CF Ken Griffey Jr. was out of the
Reds' lineup for the sixth straight game because of a dislocated
toe. ... Adam Dunn struck out twice, raising his NL-leading total
to 171 -- the second-highest of his career. Dunn fanned a major
league-record 195 times in 2004. ... The Reds topped 2 million in
attendance for the third time in their four seasons at Great
American Ball Park.
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