Expos 2, Reds 1

Preview | Box Score | Recap

CINCINNATI (AP)—The season was over for just a few hours when the Cincinnati Reds got started on turning things around for 2004.

After their 2-1 loss to the Montreal Expos on Sunday, the Reds announced that longtime shortstop Barry Larkin had agreed to a one-year contract for 2004.

“My desire to be here, to help groom the next shortstop, to move up into the front office, to stay rooted to Cincinnati—that was all part of it,” said Larkin, who turned down a $500,000 offer last Monday.

Larkin agreed to a $700,000, one-year deal that gives him the chance to earn $300,000 more in performance bonuses. He has spent all 18 of his major league seasons with the Reds.

The deal helped salvage a disappointing season that ended with Cincinnati’s 93rd loss. Brian Schneider hit a two-run double and six Montreal pitchers made it stand up as the Expos matched their 83-win total from last season and finished fourth in the NL East.

“It was the same as last year,” manager Frank Robinson said. “I thought we’d do better, but I’m not disappointed. We’re headed in the right direction, morale is good and it gives us something to build from.

“We could have been more consistent for a longer period of time and we plan to do that in 2004.”

Second baseman Jose Vidro thought the team had a good season, despite some hardships.

“We had a lot of injuries, but we did a lot of things right,” Vidro said. “At the beginning of September, we were tied for the wild card, so you have to be happy about that. If we can keep this team together, we’ll be even better next year.”

Cincinnati wrapped up a disappointing first season at Great American Ball Park with a 69-93 record. Major injuries and a huge shakeup in the front office and on the field helped produce the Reds’ 14th season of 90 or more losses since 1900.

“It doesn’t seem like this is the last game of the season,” Russell Branyan said. “Now we just have to gear up for next year. There’s a lot of uncertainty around here.”

“Some guys stepped up and showed that they can help this club in the future,” interim manager Dave Miley said.

Schneider put the Expos ahead in the second inning with his double off Scott Randall (2-5). Randall went 0-4 in his last six appearances, including two starts.

Montreal starter Claudio Vargas pitched one-hit ball for three scoreless innings.

T.J. Tucker (2-3) pitched two innings of two-hit relief. Rocky Biddle worked the ninth for his 34th save.

Dernell Stenson led off the Cincinnati seventh with his third homer of the season.

Injuries cost the Reds their entire opening day outfield of Ken Griffey Jr., Austin Kearns and Adam Dunn. The loss of those drawing cards left the Reds with a season attendance of 2,355,259—with the new stadium, Cincinnati hoped to challenge the club record of 2.6 million set by the Big Red Machine in 1976.

The Reds’ problems this year led to the firing of general manager Jim Bowden and manager Bob Boone on July 28. Miley was promoted from Triple-A Louisville and appointed interim manager.

“I’ve gone two months with `interim,”’ said Miley, adding that he wouldn’t mind getting the job on a permanent basis. He understands that his future depends on the new general manager.

“We all wish they’d name somebody, but they have to go through the process,” Miley said. “You can’t worry yourself about it every day. You justhope that the decision they make is for the best.”

Notes

Montreal SS Orlando Cabrera finished the season with 130 consecutive starts He’s played in 168 consecutive games dating to last season. … Expos OF Vladimir Guerrero went 1-for-1 with a walk before being replaced in the third. The All-Star slugger, who can become a free agent after the season, finished the year batting .330 with 25 home runs and 79 RBIs … Cincinnati’s Jason LaRue was not hit by a pitch, and finished tied with Robinson for the clubrecord with 20.

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