Aurilia homered in his first at-bat since coming off the disabled list and the Reds went on to end Detroit’s seven-game winning streak with a 9-4 victory Friday night as two of the most surprising teams in baseball met for the first time in five years.
“It felt good just to get on the field again,” said Aurilia, who had been out since May 4 with a groin injury. “It felt better to put some runs on the board.”
Cincinnati manager Jerry Narron was pleasantly surprised by Aurilia’s homer.
“There aren’t a lot of guys in baseball who could step right back into the middle of the lineup and do that,” he said. “We’ve really missed him in the last two weeks.”
Brandon Claussen (3-4) ended a four-start winless streak, giving up four runs on 11 hits in seven innings for Cincinnati. The Reds have won two straight since snapping a five-game losing streak and are second in the NL Central.
“It’s a lot easier when you get that many runs,” Claussen said. “All I have to do is throw strikes and let the guys behind me do their job.”
Jeremy Bonderman (4-3) lost for the first time since April 15, a span of five starts. The 23-year-old allowed seven runs on six hits and three walks in a season-low three-plus innings.
“I wasn’t able to get comfortable, and I got beat,” Bonderman said.
Detroit, which slipped into a tie for first with the White Sox in the AL Central, was on its longest winning streak since 1993.
“To be honest, I’m happier about this game than I have been after others,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “We battled our tails off, but they just wouldn’t let us get back into the game.”
The Reds took a 2-0 lead in the second on Aurilia’s sixth homer and Javier Valentin’s sacrifice fly, then blew the game open with six runs while sending 10 batters to the plate in the fourth.
“I’ve been hitting everything right at people lately,” said Phillips, who snapped a 2-for-19 slump. “It was good to see one finally get up the gap.”
The Tigers rallied in the bottom of the inning. The first three batters singled, with Magglio Ordonez’s base hit putting Detroit on the scoreboard, but Guillen grounded into a double play.
But Claussen got Brandon Inge to ground into an inning-ending force, and the Reds made it 9-3 in the fifth on Phillips’ sacrifice fly.
Thames hit his sixth homer to make it 9-4 in the sixth, but the Tigers left the bases loaded in the seventh.
“We came back strong, but we couldn’t get all the way back,” Thames said. “That’s baseball. You have some good games and you have some bad games.”
^Notes: The loudest roar of the night came in the bottom of the ninth when fans with radios and TVs cheered as the Pistons beat the Cavaliers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. “I was pretty sure they weren’t cheering for me,” said Chris Hammond, who was pitching for the Reds. … The teams combined for 18 batters and nine runs in the fourth. Curtis Granderson was the only player in the game that didn’t bat in the inning, while Hatteberg came up twice for the Reds. … Felipe Lopez extended his hitting streak to 13 games by leading off the game with a single.