CINCINNATI (AP)—It’s been 10 years since the Cincinnati Reds started so well.
At 4-1, the Reds are three games over .500 for the first time since Aug. 19, 2002, when they were still playing at Cinergy Field. They never got more than two games above the break-even mark in their first year at Great American Ball Park.
There’s been nothing fancy about the first-week surge against the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh.
“I just put their names on the lineup card, put on my sunglasses, sit back and watch,” manager Dave Miley said.
Folks around these parts haven’t seen anything like it since 1994, when the Reds won six of their first seven games.
Adam Dunn hit a solo homer—his second in two games—and Jimenez had a sacrifice fly and an RBI double, leading the Reds to their fourth straight victory.
Cory Lidle (1-1), who lost the season opener against the Cubs, rebounded with seven solid innings. The right-hander gave up one run and six hits, and didn’t walk anyone.
“I didn’t lose any confidence after my first outing,” said Lidle, a newcomer who lost 15 games with Toronto last year. “Things didn’t go my way, but I felt like I threw the ball well. I wanted to prove myself to my teammates and the fans.”
Cincinnati’s uncharacteristically good start has been set up by an unexpected renaissance from the rotation. Reds starters had the NL’s worst ERA last season, a major factor in their 93-loss finish.
The retooled rotation has allowed only five runs over 26 innings during the four-game winning streak.
Kip Wells (1-1) needed 114 pitches to get through six innings, repeatedly pitching out of threats against a team that hasn’t hit well with runners on base. Cincinnati stranded nine runners in his six innings, and left the bases loaded in the fourth.
“I have confidence I can get myself out of pretty much any situation, but by getting into situations, I get my pitch count up,” Wells said. “I’ve got to try to put guys away quickly.”
Dunn hit his third homer in the fourth inning, a one-out shot on Wells’ first pitch. Ryan Freel tripled to the base of the wall in center in the sixth and scored on Jimenez’s fly to center for a 2-1 lead. Jimenez added a run-scoring double in the eighth.
Jimenez also helped preserve the lead in the top of the eighth, when Abraham Nunez led off with a double off Ryan Wagner. Nunez tried for third on Tike Redman’s grounder to Jimenez, but got a late jump and was thrown out by the second baseman.
“Bad baserunning,” manager Lloyd McClendon grumbled. “He got thrown out by a mile. He didn’t get the proper secondary lead.”
Jimenez expected Redman to try to advance the runner with a bunt. Instead, he swung away and hit a grounder directly to him.
“I was playing halfway in,” Jimenez said. “I wanted to be ready for the bunt. I just charged and reacted to him going to third.”
Redman then compounded the mistake by getting picked off first base.
Danny Graves pitched a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save. Graves has been perfect in three opportunities since moving from the rotation back into the closer’s role this season.
Pittsburgh has managed only two runs in the first two games of the series. Wells accounted for the only run Saturday, hitting his first career triple off the base of the wall in left-center and scoring on Jack Wilson’s sacrifice flyin the third.
Pirates 3B Chris Stynes got the day off after opening the season 0-for-12. Rob Mackowiak took his place and had a single. … OF Raul Mondesi fouled off seven pitches in his first at-bat, finally grounding out on the 10th pitch from Lidle. … Pirates 1B Randall Simon left with a tight left hamstring after running out a grounder in the first inning. He felt it tighten up halfway down the line. “It’s still a little sore right now, but it’s better than it was,” Simon said after the game. … Reds C Jason LaRue was 0-for-3, leavinghim hitless in 14 at-bats this season.