Phillips, Latos lead Reds to fourth straight win

Phillips, Latos lead Reds to fourth straight win

Phillips, Latos lead Reds to fourth straight win
CINCINNATI -- Both second baseman Brandon Phillips and pitcher Mat Latos were impatiently waiting to break out of some personal droughts for the Reds.

Phillips came into Tuesday with only two home runs and hadn't notched a homer since April 24. That same date was also the last time Latos pitched a season-high seven innings.

The Phillips-Latos dual contributions flowed during the Reds' 4-3 victory over the Braves, which gave them four consecutive wins. Phillips knocked out two home runs, while Latos worked seven innings in one of his best outings of the season.

"It's about time," Latos said. "I felt real good, body-wise, mechanics-wise, pitches."

Latos, now 3-2 with a 4.35 ERA, allowed two runs and five hits, with one walk and eight strikeouts. He threw 116 pitches with 79 strikes to get his first win since May 6 at Pittsburgh. What was missing from this outing was the laboriously long innings in which his pitch counts quickly ballooned.

"That was huge," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "He stayed away from that big fourth, an inning that had been haunting him."

Cincinnati once again scored all of its runs via the home run ball, with three of the six hits in the game clearing the fences. In Monday's win over Atlanta, they had only seven hits but four homers.

The Braves went deep first, however, when Michael Bourn led off the game by hitting a 3-2 Latos pitch into the right-field seats. Bourn, who snapped an 0-for-11 and 1-for-17 skid, would add a second solo homer of the night in the eighth against Logan Ondrusek. It was his first career two-homer game.

After Bourn took him deep, Latos went on to retire eight in a row and nine of the next 10. In the top of the fourth, Jason Heyward's one-out double to the right-field corner scored Dan Uggla from first base.

In the Reds' first inning, Drew Stubbs reached on a one-out infield single to the shortstop. Two batters later, Phillips tattooed a 3-2 pitch from Braves starter Brandon Beachy an estimated 422 feet to center field for a two-run homer.

"I was glad to see Brandon come out of it," Baker said. "He was working from behind with that hamstring and then his thumb. It looked like he's coming on now, right on time, too. We needed those runs tonight against a very tough pitcher in Beachy."

Phillips was hitting .321 over his previous 14 games, with hits in 12 of those games. But it had been 96 at-bats since he went yard, and he went to see hitting coach Brook Jacoby to see about changing his fortunes.

"I came in early today," said Phillips, who played through a sore left hamstring for much of April and early May. "I sat down with Jacoby and just told him, 'I'm starting to feel my legs.' He said, 'Come look at this video.' I looked at my video from last year and this year. I was more upright than I was last year. I had to change a little bit because I was playing with my hamstring earlier, so I stood up a little bit so I couldn't feel it.

"He said, 'Just squat down lower in your stance and let's see what happens.' Next thing you know, my first at-bat I hit a home run. It really helped me out a lot."

Leading off the bottom of the third, Zack Cozart cleared the fences for the second time in two nights when he homered to center field.

Beachy, who entered with a Major League-leading 1.33 ERA, had allowed only one homer over his first eight starts and 54 innings.

"I'm not going to let the ballpark be an excuse for any of those three home runs," said Beachy, who last had multiple homers in a game on July 24, 2011, in Cincinnati. "None of those pitches were where they were supposed to be."

Phillips returned to lead off the Reds' fourth inning with a first-pitch long ball lifted into the right-field seats. Not only was Jacoby a positive influence from his own side, Phillips also had pregame words with Braves star Chipper Jones.

"He was telling me I have good hands and I should go out there and start using them," Phillips said. "Me and Chipper are cool. He said that to me, and I can't believe I started hitting some home runs today. I looked down at him in the dugout and he was busting out laughing. It was pretty funny."

Latos rebounded from the Heyward double and retired 11 of his last 12 batters while still reaching velocities of 95 mph in the seventh.

"I've thrown a lot of pitches just to get through five innings. Dusty stretched me out a little more than 100 pitches," Latos said. "I was ready to go. I was tired of going five innings or so. It was good to go seven for once."

Following the second Bourn homer that made it a one-run game in the eighth, Aroldis Chapman slammed the door in the ninth. Getting one baserunner on an error by third baseman Miguel Cairo, Chapman struck out two and reached 100 mph to notch save No. 2.

The Reds are a season-high four games above .500 at 23-19 but remained a half-game behind the first-place Cardinals in the National League Central.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.