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Van Slyke homers twice as Dodgers dump Reds

The SportsXchange

CINCINNATI -- In the crowded Los Angeles Dodgers outfield, Scott Van Slyke is making the most of every opportunity.

On Monday night, Van Slyke did it all in center field. He hit two home runs, achieved career highs with three hits and four RBIs, and he even fed sunflower seeds to two ducks who wandered into the outfield.

"I'm an animal lover," he said.

Van Slyke hit a three-run home run and a solo shot, and gutsy performances by starter Dan Haren and the Dodgers bullpen lifted Los Angeles to a 6-2 victory over the Cincinnati Reds in the opener of a four-game series at Great American Ball Park.

"I know what I'm here for," Van Slyke said of his role as a spare outfielder. "I don't mind it. It was kind of the same situation last year when everybody was healthy."

Haren (6-4) allowed five hits and two runs, walked two and struck out two in 5 1/3 innings to end a streak of three consecutive losing decisions.

"He knows who he is as a pitcher," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He's going to miss his spots now and then. He's never going to give in."

Left fielder Ryan Ludwick homered for Cincinnati, which lost for the third time in four games against the Dodgers this season.

With Mat Latos set to rejoin the Cincinnati rotation from the disabled list, Monday's outing was an audition of sorts for Tony Cingrani (2-7). The left-hander allowed six runs on seven hits and needed 97 pitches to get through 4 2/3 innings.

"It's a tough thing," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "When we add Mat, we'll have 13 major league pitchers for 12 spots. That's not to say Cingrani won't be part of the process. It's a very difficult decision."

The Dodgers' bullpen extinguished two late Cincinnati scoring threats.

The Reds (29-33) had runners on first and second in the seventh, but J.P. Howell induced center fielder Billy Hamilton's first career double-play grounder to end the inning.

Cincinnati then loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth against Brandon League, who got Ludwick to ground into a 1-2-3 double play and catcher Brayan Pena to ground out to short to end the inning.

"When I signed with his team, one of the selling points was the bullpen," Haren said. "The starters feel great giving the ball up to the bullpen. Those situations tonight were stressful but fun to watch."

After an inning-ending double play helped him escape a first-inning jam, Cingrani gave up Van Slyke's 439-foot solo home run to left-center field leading off the second, putting the Dodgers ahead 1-0.

"We ask him to be dangerous," Mattingly said of Van Slyke. "He's showing his value. He sneaks up on you. He has a pretty good idea what he's doing at the plate."

Twice Cincinnati missed home runs by a few feet in the early going, including shortstop Zack Cozart's blast to left in the second, which required a 34-second crew chief review to confirm it was foul.

Ludwick's fifth home run cut the Reds' deficit to 3-2 run in the fourth inning.

Two walks off Cingrani in the fifth preceded Van Slyke's second homer, a three-run shot that gave Los Angeles (34-31) a 6-2 lead.

"I'm just trying to pitch," Cingrani said when asked if the pressure is mounting. "It's not like I'm out there thinking, 'Oh, my God.' I'm just trying to give the team the best opportunity to win. It's a hard game."

NOTES: Dodgers CF Scott Van Slyke had his second career multi-home run game. The other came May 17, 2013, at Atlanta. ...Dodgers RF Yasiel Puig returned to the starting lineup after missing Sunday's game with a strained left hip flexor. He went 1-for-4 with a walk and a run. ... Los Angeles 2B Dee Gordon did not start Monday's game after sitting out Sunday due to right hip discomfort. He beat out an infield hit as a pinch hitter in the ninth. ... Reds RHP Mat Latos threw 81 pitches and allowed one run on four hits, and 1B Joey Votto went 1-for-3 in their rehab starts for Triple-A Louisville on Monday night at Pawtucket before the game was postponed by rain after 5 2/3 innings. ... The Dodgers' .579 winning percentage at Great American Ball Park is second best by any National League team behind the New York Mets' .600 mark.

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