Three days ago marked the 47th anniversary of astronaut Neil Armstrong’s “one small step for man” onto the moon.
The Reds completed their own version of a small step Saturday night. Their 6-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks clinched their third consecutive series win, the first time this season that Cincinnati has been able to win as many as three consecutive series.
“I think we’re starting to see some cohesiveness in the pitching,” manager Bryan Price said. “We needed to step up our performances. We’ve seen a string of good start where we’re not down by four runs early. We’re just playing better baseball. That’s good coming out of the break after not playing so well in Miami.”
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With actor John Travolta and his wife, actress Kelly Preston, among the crowd of 23,963, Jay Bruce hit a three-run home run and Cincinnati overcame a first-inning deficit with a three-run rally in the bottom of the inning for the second consecutive night while improving to 6-2 on the current nine-game home stand.
The Reds went 2-1 against both the Milwaukee Brewers and Atlanta Braves, winning the first and last games of each series and dropping the middle game. Cincinnati has won five of its last six games.
The Diamondbacks took a 1-0 lead against spot starter Keyvius Sampson on Jean Segura’s leadoff single and stolen base and a two-out RBI single by Chris Owings, who was activated from the disabled list before the game.
Billy Hamilton led off the first with a single, stole second – his fourth stolen base in two games as Cincinnati’s leadoff batter – and went to third on a wild pitch. Joey Votto walked and the Reds tried a double steal, but Hamilton got caught between third and home before successfully avoiding a tag while scrambling back to third. Votto ended up on second and both scored on third baseman Jake Lamb’s two-base throwing error of Adam Duvall’s grounder.
“That was hugely important,” Price said. “Joey did a good job not making the third out at second base and Billy’s quickness and athleticism in avoiding the tag was big.”
Brandon Phillips followed with an RBI double, extending his hitting streak to 11 games, the team’s longest active streak.
Bruce followed leadoff singles by Zack Cozart and Votto with his 20th homer of the season and second during a five-game hitting streak. Votto also extended a hitting streak to eight games, while Cozart improved his streak to six games.
Sampson, making his 13th career start and first since last October 2, turned in 4 1/3 innings and finished with six strikeouts, one short of matching his single-game career high. He was lifted in the fifth after throwing 88 pitches with Segura on first and a 1-0 count on Michael Bourn. Michael Lorenzen came in and ran the count to 3-0 on Bourn before coming back to slip a called strike three past him and go on to get Paul Goldschmidt on an inning-ending fly ball to Bruce in right.
“I felt a lot more comfortable,” Sampson said. “I was able to use all four of my pitches. I gave them a solid outing. I showed four quality pitches. I hope I made them say ‘He still has a bit of starting in him.’”
Lorenzen (1-0), who wasn’t activated until June 22 after suffering a sprained right elbow late in spring training and then contracting mononucleosis, retired all eight batters he faced to earn the win, his first since last Sept. 6.