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I am a freelance writer. I've covered the Cincinnati Reds, Bengals and others since 1992. I have a background in sales as well. I've sold consumer electronics, advertising and consumer package goods for companies ranging from the now defunct Circuit City to Procter&Gamble. I have worked as a stats operator for Xavier University, the University of Cincinnati, the College of Mount St. Joe and Colerain High School.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Reds' Second Half Off To A Fast Start

The Reds met their Central Division Rivals, the Pittsburgh Pirates, in front of a sellout crowd.

Chris Heisey and Brandon Phillips drove in all five of the Reds' runs. Mike Leake kept the Pirates at bay for five well-pitched innings. The bullpen bailed him out. The Reds won it 5-3.

Heisey homered off Francisco Liriano with one out in the first inning. Heisey, who has shown some life in his bat since his return from a hamstring injury, followed his fifth home run of the season with an RBI single in the fith inning. Heisey was on base when Phillips cleared the bases after Joey Votto drew a walk. Shin-Soo Choo extended his career-high hitting streak to 13 games to join Votto and Heisey at the plate.

"Our record indicates that we have a great chance to win when we get that first run," Dusty Baker said.

Heisey is hitting .367 with three home runs since returning from the disabled list.

'It is important to start the second half fast," Heisey said.  "The teams ahead of us are playing well.  We have to keep up."

Phillips, who has been batting cleanup since Ryan Ludwick went down on opening day, has nine hits in 11 at-bats with the bases loaded.

"I didn't know that," Phillips said, although he did recall the two instances when he didn't get a hit with the bases loaded.  "My teammates put me in a position to come through and I came through.  It was fun.  Guys were jumping up and down in the dugout."

What about the two times that Phillips failed with the bases loaded?

"One time against the Nationals, I lined out to first base," Phillips recalled.  "The other time I got too greedy."

Phillips was supposed to bat second in this lineup but his ability to hit fourth in the lineup has led to the secondbaseman to challenge for the NL lead in RBI.  The bases-clearing double gave him 77 RBI on the season, matching Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt.

Although he has excelled in the role, Phillips is eager for the Reds to get back to full strength.  Ludwick is close to going out on a rehab assignment.

"That's the type of team we are," Phillips said.  "We fill in the gaps. I can't wait until Luddy gets back."

 Leake had a lapse in the top of the sixth, allowing home runs to Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen and Russel Martin. Dusty Baker went to the bullpen which turned in 3-1/3 scoreless innings with Aroldis Chapman closing out the game for his 22nd save.

"Leake started to get the ball up.  His pitch count was relatively low but he ran the bases a couple times.  It looked like the monkey jumped on his back," Baker said.  "We were hoping he could get through that inning.  Leake was due up second in the next inning, then you have to burn a pitcher and a pinch hitter."

Logan Ondrusek, Alfredo Simon, Manny Parra and Sam LeCure bridged the gap to Chapman.

Reds' relievers own a 0.88 ERA in the last 14 games.

Parra in particular has been much better after a rough start.  He has been working on a slider at the suggestion of pitching coach Bryan Price.

Parra struck out the two batters he faced to complete his 16th straight scoreless appearance.

"Parra has a lot of confidence now," Baker said.  "He didn't at the beginning of the season.  Now he has it and we have the confidence to bring him into games in pressure situations."

"I thought I had confidence coming out of spring training," Parra said.  "Now I know what I need to do. If I execute this pitch, I can have success.  For the last four years my breaking ball was hit or miss.  On the days when I did have a good breaking ball, I had success.  I now through a new breaking ball. I used to throw a curve ball that required more torque.  The slider, you just stay behind it.  It is more like a fastball. I can command it.  I can throw it inside and out."

Price came to Parra at the end of spring training and said, "Let's work on this.  I totally agreed.  It seemed like only one out of six of my curve balls was good," Parra said.

Professionally edited by ML Schirmer
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