Encarnacion expected it.
The third baseman let Milwaukee pull ahead in the top of the inning with yet another error. Then he hit a solo homer, his second of the game, that sparked the Cincinnati Reds toward a slump-busting, 4-3 win Sunday.
“I knew my error could lose the game,” said Encarnacion, who has six of Cincinnati’s 11 errors this season.
The Reds won for only the second time in their last nine games, a downturn linked to their struggling offense. Down to their last at-bat on Sunday, they finally got it going.
“I’m still excited,” manager Dusty Baker said. “We needed that one so badly—big-time. That was a good script. I can sleep tonight. I haven’t slept worth nothing.”
Encarnacion helped the Brewers pull ahead 3-1 in the top of the 10th by booting a grounder as he hurried to try to start a double play. Jared Burton (1-1) let in a run with a wild pitch, and J.J. Hardy singled home another.
Milwaukee was only three outs from a series sweep.
Manager Ned Yost didn’t have any qualms about bringing in Gagne to pitch for the fourth straight day. The closer had been throwing well lately, converting his last five chances, and assured Yost that he could get those last three outs.
“He felt good,” Yost said. “I check with my relievers every day. It was pushing it a little bit, but he felt good, he felt loose.”
The feeling didn’t last.
“I felt very good,” Gagne said. “I got behind in the count. That’s the thing: You’ve got to get ahead. I didn’t do that today.”
After Gagne gave up the back-to-back homers and walked Scott Hatteberg, Salomon Torres relieved and gave up an infield single by Brandon Phillips. Griffey singled over the head of right fielder Corey Hart to end the game and Encarnacion’s misery.
“Eddie’s a great guy,” Griffey said. “He works hard every day. He makes mistakes, but he’s able to go up there and make up for it. You want him to go out and not get too down on himself and help the team any way, shape or form.”
Another cool, wet afternoon made it tough on the hitters. A steady rain fell throughout, and fans bundled themselves in jackets and hooded sweat shirts against the 56-degree chill.
The only thing that the teams managed through the first nine innings was one homer apiece—Hardy in the fourth, Encarnacion in the sixth.
Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo, activated off the disabled list before the game, allowed only four hits through eight innings. The right-hander proved his surgically repaired left knee was fine by throwing 112 pitches.
Aaron Harang was sick in his start last Tuesday, when the Cubs piled up five runs in six innings of a 9-5 victory at Wrigley Field. He was back in form Sunday, allowing four hits in eight innings while striking out eight.
His only glaring mistake came against Hardy, one of numerous Brewers hitters who have yet to find their stroke. The shortstop was a first-time All-Star last season, when he hit 26 homers, but has struggled to keep his average above .200 in April.
On his first swing against Harang in the fourth, he sent a belt-high fastball toward the upper deck in left field for his first homer. Hardy also threw Adam Dunn out at the plate on a relay as he tried to score standing up from first base on Jeff Keppinger’s double in the fourth inning.
Milwaukee optioned utility player Joe Dillon to Triple-A Nashville to open a roster spot for Gallardo. Dillon was primarily a pinch hitter, going 2-for-10 in nine games. … The Reds put reliever David Weathers on the 15-day DL with an inflamed nerve in his right elbow. The move opens a spot for RHP Matt Belisle, who is expected to be activated off the DL to start Monday’s game against the Dodgers. … Encarnacion has hit in 10 straight games, matching his career high. … Cincinnati’s Corey Patterson extended his slump to 0-for-22.