In clutch, a Dunn deal
Double in 8th scores game-winner vs. Royals
By Josh Katzowitz / Post staff writer
As Adam Dunn collected his first hit in Thursday's game, Reds shortstop Felipe Lopez - who, seconds earlier, had completed his own home run trot - jumped on the bullpen railing and watched with amusement as his teammate's shot sailed 432 feet into the stands.
Just before Dunn's second hit of the game, Lopez, standing on first base, knew Cincinnati's left fielder would give his team the lead again.
When Dunn's line drive sailed over the head of Royals right fielder Reggie Sanders to score pinch-hitter Ryan Freel with the eventual game-winning run, Lopez wasn't the least bit surprised.
"I had a feeling that he was going to get it done," said Lopez, who was thrown out at the plate on that play. "He's been swinging a hot bat lately. All that hard work he's putting in has to pay off sometime."
The Reds, 6-5 winners against Kansas City, celebrated the effects Thursday.
"Unfairly, people get on him about driving in runs, and I think he's got more than he did last year at this time," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "You know what you're going to get out of him. I know when he steps in the box, the opposing pitcher sure doesn't want to face him."
Dunn's third-inning home run, following Ken Griffey Jr.'s shot in the first and Lopez's blast, gave the Reds 44 homers in the month, breaking a club record for June (the team hit 43 in 1957 and 2005).
Dunn's double in the eighth gave him 48 RBIs on the season. Last year after the June 29 game, he had recorded 40.
All that gave him enough confidence to take his time at the plate with the game on the line and Royals reliever Jimmy Gobble on the mound.
"I've never faced the guy before, and I've been feeling good against left-handers, so I wanted to see a pitch from him," Dunn said. "I saw him."
After taking a first-pitch strike from Gobble, the Royals left-hander threw Dunn a slider that Dunn thought was low and outside. After home plate umpire Ed Hickox called it a strike - and Dunn visibly showed his displeasure - Dunn fouled off a pitch.
On Gobble's next offering, Dunn performed exactly how Lopez expected.
He hit a hard line drive that Sanders appeared to misjudge, the right fielder couldn't recover in time to make the catch, and Freel scored.
Good thing for the Reds. They needed every bit of Dunn's offense, because, once again, the bullpen couldn't protect a lead.
Right-hander Bronson Arroyo pitched well enough to earn his 10th win of the season, allowing five hits and two runs in seven innings, but after throwing 108 pitches, he felt a little tired. With a 5-2 lead, Narron decided Arroyo had done enough.
"I'd love to have kept him in for nine innings and pitch tomorrow night," Narron said. "Can't do it either way. ... He was tired. He had done his job."
Said Arroyo: "I wasn't out of gas. I've been in worse shape and gone back out there. I didn't feel like I had my best stuff the whole night. With six outs to go and us up by three, I felt like it was enough of a lead. I thought it would work out."
Not exactly. Narron summoned relievers Chris Hammond (1/3 of an inning, three hits, three runs) and David Weathers, who allowed each of his inherited runners to score.
But it didn't matter, because a half-inning later, Lopez's intuition about Dunn proved true.
"In Hammond and Weather's defense, they get a groundball by Emil Brown through the infield and you get a bloop single into right field that's fair," said Narron, who got a perfect ninth inning from closer Todd Coffey (seven saves). "For us to be successful, everybody in the bullpen has to do well. We'll keep using guys and try our best to go with somebody that's hot out there."
Even with a bullpen ERA of 5.18 that ranks as the worst in the National League, the Reds moved to within a game of first-place St. Louis (idle Thursday). So they should be happy with that.
Plus it just would have been embarrassing to lose a home series to the worst team in baseball.
"The Royals have been playing good baseball lately," Dunn said. "But it would have been disappointing to lose a series to those guys."