Reds 2, Indians 1
They had a feeling something bad was about to happen again.
Harang, the most dependable pitcher in the majors’ most hittable rotation, took a shutout into the eighth inning Friday night, then handed it over to a rickety bullpen. This time, it held on for a 2-1 interleague victory over the Cleveland Indians that was draining and dramatic.
“It’s a great feeling to go out there and finally save one for him,” closer Danny Graves said. “It’s very relieving—no pun intended—for the relievers to help him out tonight.”
Harang (3-2) allowed only four hits and struck out a season-high nine in 7 1-3 innings, baffling the American League’s least-productive lineup before leaving his fate up to a bullpen that has already cost him three wins.
“I believe in the guys in the bullpen,” Harang said. “The luck hasn’t been going our way. Hopefully tonight will be a turnaround.”
Graves, who has lashed out at fans for booing during the Reds’ downturn, came on and struck out Travis Hafner to end the threat. Graves then gave up a pair of hits in the ninth before getting Casey Blake to end it with a ground out, securing his 10th save in 12 chances.
Dunn’s 12th homer off Kevin Millwood (1-4) ended the scoreless tie with two outs in the sixth and kept the right-hander stuck on 99 career wins. Joe Randa had three of the six hits off Millwood, who lasted six innings and got the loss despite making only one bad pitch.
Asked if he was frustrated by the lack of run support, Millwood said, “Not at all. My whole thing is to give us a chance. If I do that, there’s not much else I can do. I can’t get frustrated or angry at these guys. They’re all working really hard to get this thing right.”
Lopez hit his fifth homer off David Riske in the seventh, providing the decisive run.
The annual interleague series once drew some of the biggest crowds at the two ballparks. Both teams have fallen on hard times, so their first get-together of 2005 wasn’t a hot ticket.
Only 25,412 bought tickets to see the Indians—second-to-last in the AL Central—face the Reds—last in the NL Central—in a matchup of extreme teams.
The Indians had the majors’ worst offense, hitting only .238. The Reds had the majors’ worst pitching staff, allowing batters to hit .306 with 62 homers.
Harang made the difference. The Indians got only five balls out of the infield in the first seven innings off Harang, who left with two runners aboard in the eighth.
“Harang pitched a good game, but we had pitches to hit,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “When we do get good pitches, we foul them off or take them. When they nibble, we’re biting. It’s just backward.”
Indians third baseman Aaron Boone, back in Cincinnati for the first time since he was traded during a midseason payroll purge in 2003, was cheered during pregame introductions but had an otherwise forgettable game. He went 1-for-4 and struck out twice with runners on base.
The Reds had a chance to break open a scoreless game in the third, when they loaded the bases on Lopez’s single and a pair of walks. Ken Griffey Jr. then lined a ball toward right, but second baseman Ronnie Belliard made a diving catch on the edge of the outfield grass to snuff out the threat.
Cleveland leads the intrastate series 19-15. … Boone had lunch with Reds buddies Sean Casey and Dunn at a restaurant that was one of his favorites when he played in Cincinnati. … Indians C Victor Martinez went 0-for-3, extending his slump to 0-for-18. … Reds INF Ryan Freel had a stiff back, so William Bergolla was at second base, making his first big league start. … OF Austin Kearns went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts on his 25th birthday. … The Reds haven’t won any of their last 10 series, their longest such skid since 1989, when they went 13 straight series without winning one. … Wedge got his second ejection of the season in the ninth inning, when plate umpire Bill Welke called a strike on bunting Jhonny Peralta as he tried to get out of the way of an inside pitch.