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Phillips thrives chasing 'ribeye steaks' in Reds' win

The SportsXchange

CINCINNATI -- Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips went from table-setter to run-producer when he was moved to the cleanup spot in the batting order after Ryan Ludwick separated his shoulder. Not only has Phillips adapted to his new role, he has excelled in it.

On Friday night, Phillips' bases-loaded double drove home three runs during a four-run fifth inning and Chris Heisey added a home run in Cincinnati's 5-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates in the opener of a three-game series before a sold-out crowd of 40,831 at Great American Ball Park.

"My teammates put me in a great position to come through," said Phillips, who went 1-for-4 with a double and three RBIs. "When I see guys on base, I want those ribeye steaks (RBI). I'm pretty focused in those situations. This is what it's all about."

Phillips, who was tied for second in the National League in RBIs entering Friday's game, has collected three or more RBIs eight times this season.

"Brandon's going to be our clutch man," said Reds manager Dusty Baker.

Pittsburgh (56-38) now trails first-place St. Louis by two games in the NL Central. Cincinnati (54-42) remained five games back of the Cardinals.

Reds starter Mike Leake (9-4) picked up the victory Friday despite allowing solo homers to Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Russell Martin, all in the sixth inning.

Leake allowed six hits in 5 2/3 innings. He walked two and struck out five.

Pirates starter Francisco Liriano (9-4) pitched a season-low 4 1/3 innings as the Reds raced to a 5-0 lead before Pittsburgh fought back.

"One of those days I didn't get any rhythm," Liriano said. "I tried to make good pitches and it didn't work out. Everything was up. I was rushing a little bit. I didn't get anything going; just one of those days."

The Pirates had the tying runs at second and third in the seventh, but Reds left-hander Manny Parra struck out Pedro Alvarez to end the inning.

Cincinnati missed a scoring opportunity in the seventh when Joey Votto was thrown out at home by Travis Snider, who had just been inserted as a defensive replacement in right field.

But five Reds relievers, including closer Aroldis Chapman who posted his 22nd save, blanked the Pirates over 3 1/3 innings. Chapman had two strikeouts in the ninth.

"It was impressive what (the bullpen) did coming out of the All-Star break," said Parra. "We need to keep it going. We go into every series looking to sweep the series. It's always good to win the first one. These games are huge, especially against (NL Central) teams."

Liriano struggled in his first game after a nine-day layoff that included the All-Star break.

In the first inning, Heisey launched a 3-2 pitch into the left-field stands, putting Cincinnati ahead, 1-0. It was Heisey's fifth home run this season, and just the fourth allowed this year by Liriano.

Heisey's RBI single in the fifth made the score 2-0. Liriano exited with the bases loaded and Phillips greeted left-hander Justin Wilson with a bases-clearing double to give Cincinnati a 5-0 lead.

Liriano struggled with his command, allowing five earned runs and four walks.

"Nine days off the mound," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He was trying to get back into a rhythm. He threw more pitches than he wanted to. We were a pitch or two away from getting out of situations. We've gotten out of those situations before. We couldn't tonight."

NOTES: Pirates 1B Garrett Jones' committed an error in the seventh inning, snapping a 41-inning errorless streak for Pittsburgh. ... Shin-Soo Choo's single in the fifth inning extended his hitting streak to 13 games, tying a career high. ... Votto singled in the first inning to extend his on-base streak to 30 games. ... Cincinnati recalled INF Neftali Soto from Triple-A Louisville and optioned LHP Tony Cingrani to the Arizona League Reds. Cingrani, 3-1 with a 3.23 ERA in 15 appearances that included 10 starts, likely will return to start one end of Tuesday's doubleheader games in San Francisco. ... Pirates 2B Neil Walker made his first rehab appearance at Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday, going 0-for-3 with a strikeout in five innings. He's expected to play seven innings on Saturday and nine on Sunday. Walker, on the disabled list since July 9 with right-side soreness, is eligible to be reinstated on Monday. ... The Reds and Pirates have been hit by pitches 19 times in their 10 matchups this season, the highest total in the major leagues for any two opponents.
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