Reds 2, Devil Rays 1
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP)—Austin Kearns displayed more than his power.
Kearns stole home on the back end of a double steal and homered and Ryan Dempster allowed one run over 7 1-3 innings as the Cincinnati Reds completed a three-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays with a 2-1 win Thursday night.
The Reds went up 1-0 in the second when Kearns scored from third on the double steal. Kearns came home after catcher Toby Hall threw toward second in an attempt to get Aaron Boone. Kearns then beat the return throw home by shortstop Julio Lugo.
Kearns’ 15th homer, his second solo homer in three days, put Cincinnati ahead 2-1 in the sixth.
“It’s not a legit steal,” Kearns said. “It’s just because he threw to second. I think the home run felt a little better.”
Dempster (2-4) allowed four hits in his second start since spending 15 days on the disabled list with a neck injury.
“It was real exciting to see Dempster pitch the way he pitched,” Reds manager Bob Boone said. “We’ve been waiting for that a long time. He’s been working real hard on it and he’s had some physical setbacks, but that’s the way I expect him to pitch just about all the time.”
It was Dempster’s first win since April 8. He was winless in his previous eight starts.
Dempster left with one out in the eighth and runners on second and third. Reliever Gabe White retired Carl Crawford on a soft liner to short for the second out. After intentionally walking Rocco Baldelli to load the bases, White got Aubrey Huff to fly out.
“I owe Gabe a case of beer or something,” said Dempster, who struck out five and walked two.
Scott Williamson threw a perfect ninth for his 16th save in 17 opportunities.
Tampa Bay starter Jeremi Gonzalez (2-2) gave up two runs and five hits over seven innings.
The Devil Rays have lost a season-high seven straight games, including the past five by one or two runs.
“That big base hit has been elusive,” Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said. “Sooner or later we’ve got to turn the corner and do better. And truthfully I expect that we will.”
Tampa Bay has gone 17-22 in a major league-high 39 games decided by two runs or less.
Jeff Liefer’s infield RBI single tied it at 1 in the second. The Devil Rays, however, ran themselves out of a potential big inning.
With runners on second and third with one out, Lugo hit a grounder to third base side of the pitcher’s mound. Dempster fielded the ball, tagged out Al Martin between third and home and then threw to Boone, who completed a double play by tagging out Liefer as he tried to advance from second to third.
Dempster retired 12 straight batters after Liefer’s hit.
Devil Rays second baseman Marlon Anderson kept it tied with a strong defensive play in the fourth. After knocking down Felipe Lopez’s infield single, he threw out Kearns as he tried to score from second.
Tampa Bay’s Baldelli made a leaping catch near the center field fence onJason LaRue’s drive with two on and two out in the eighth.
Dempster walked slowly toward the dugout after 1B Adam Dunn made contact with him as Boone caught Baldelli’s pop up to end the sixth. The right-hander remained in the game. “Dunn didn’t think we had a third baseman,” Boone said. “He (Dempster) kind of hyperextended his arm—hit his funny bone—but it came back to him once he got in the dugout.” … Boone said SS Barry Larkin (strained right calf) might be activated from the 15-day disabled list Friday. … Liefer’s single was his first hit since joining the Devil Rays last Saturday. He was hitless in nine previous at-bats, including five strikeouts. … Lopez snapped an 0-for-23 slide with his single in the fourth. … The Devil Rays have been out-homered 41-16 at home. … The Redsare 6-3 in interleague play. They were 2-10 last season.