"Bruuuce": Cincy's Bruce sinks Halladay, Phillies with homer in 8th

Jay Bruce(notes) swears the Cincinnati Reds are the real deal.

Those who doubt Bruce and are waiting for the Reds to fade into the morass of the NL Central might have a long layover.

Bruce slugged a two-run, go-ahead home run in the eighth inning Wednesday afternoon against Roy Halladay(notes) — the biggest game in the hunt — to stun the Philadelphia Phillies and send the Reds to a scintillating 4-3 victory.

And the Great Americans go "Bruuuuce"

Thanks to their 25th comeback victory and 14th in their final at-bat, the Reds improved to 44-35 overall and moved into a virtual first-place tie with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Teams such as the Phillies and Redbirds were supposed to sit atop the NL. Few thought the Reds would. And few seem ready to commit to them, even now.

"When you win a game like this, it's a surprise but not a shock anymore because we've been doing it from day one," Bruce said. "I think this is one of our best wins today."

Bruce kind of embodies the team for which he plays. It's easy to forget he just turned 23 years old.

Remember Bruce's rock-star debut in 2008? His first hilarious Q&A? Well, Bruce set the bar pretty high. But he wasn't quite ready to inherit the mantel of Ken Griffey Jr.(notes) or Adam Dunn(notes).

And that's not what he's doing now. He's just being steady, like the Reds.

Bruce's OPS and the Reds' W-L record, by month:

April: .833 OPS ..... 12-11
May: .827 OPS ..... 18-11
June: .787 OPS ..... 14-13* (includes today)

Particularly encouraging about this victory was whom it came against and how it happened. The Reds appeared to wear Halladay down. He allowed a season-high 13 hits and needed 119 pitches to finish his sixth complete game of the season.

Though the Phillies have had trouble keeping the back of the bullpen healthy — and maybe that entered the mind of manager Charlie Manuel — chances are, Halladay would be on the mound like that in September or October.

"I beat myself with two bad pitches in the eighth," Halladay said. "I really didn't think they were hitting the ball all that hard until then."

But hit it the Reds did. It's the kind of win that allows fans to wonder about things like ... playoffs. For real.

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