Reds first to 80 wins after sweeping D-backs

Reds first to 80 wins after sweeping D-backs

Reds first to 80 wins after sweeping D-backs
PHOENIX -- Reds fans should take a moment to appreciate what they're seeing, because seasons like this haven't come around very often in Cincinnati.

A 6-2 victory over the D-backs on Wednesday iced a three-game series sweep and improved the Reds to a Major League-best 80-52. It is the quickest to 80 wins for the club since the 1976 team won No. 80 in its 125th game. This also marked the first time since '76 that a Reds team won 80 games before the end of August.

In 1976, the Big Red Machine won 102 games and went on to sweep the Yankees for a second straight World Series title.

"We felt that in Spring Training that we're a special team," manager Dusty Baker said. "It's a good year to be a special team, for everybody. Our guys keep plugging along, winning ballgames any way we can win them."

Last season, the Reds finished with 79 wins. There are still 30 games remaining in this season. If it ended now, they would have home-field advantage throughout the National League playoffs.

Things have been loose and relaxed inside the Reds' clubhouse of late, for good reason. In the second half, almost entirely without Joey Votto, they are 33-14, also the best in baseball. They are 10-2-2 in 14 second-half series.

"We're just having fun," said second baseman Brandon Phillips, not long after getting a playful kiss on the cheek from teammate Todd Frazier. "Everybody is joking around with people. Everybody is getting clutch hits when we need them."

Even winning can be taxing, though. Playing their 34th game in 34 days before finally getting a break with Thursday's off-day in Houston, the Reds looked every bit of a team running on fumes for the first two-thirds of Wednesday's game.

Arizona lefty Patrick Corbin retired seven of his first eight batters, and 16 of 18. Through the first six innings, the Reds trailed, 2-0, and their only hits were a third-inning single from pitcher Mat Latos and a Zack Cozart infield single in the sixth that snapped a 0-for-20 skid.

There turned out to be reserves left in the tank that would boost the Reds.

In the seventh, Frazier hit a one-out double to left field and was followed by Chris Heisey sending a 3-1 fastball to left-center field for a two-run homer. Heisey, a reserve who got the start in left field Wednesday, hadn't hit a homer since an inside-the-parker on Aug. 3.

"The home run he gave up to me was one of the first at-bats where he fell behind," Heisey said. "He was [ahead] 3-0 and then 3-1. I was sitting on a fastball and I got it." Two batters later with two outs, another backup in catcher Dioner Navarro hit a 1-1 Corbin pitch into the left-field seats for a solo homer that gave the Reds their first lead of the afternoon.

In the eighth inning against reliever Matt Albers, Phillips added a massive two-run homer to straightaway center field. It was still carrying when it hit the batters' eye.

"That's all I've got," Phillips said. "When I hit it, I said, 'Please get up, please get up.' I didn't think it would be like that. Dang, I did some pushups last night. Maybe the pushups really worked."

With two outs, Heisey drove a 3-2 Albers pitch to left field for another homer, this time a solo shot. It was the fourth multihomer game of Heisey's career.

"They're a good hitting team. That's what the Reds do," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "It's critical to continue to make good pitches on them."

Over seven innings and a season-high 118 pitches, Latos allowed two runs and five hits with three walks and seven strikeouts to improve to 11-4 with a 3.79 ERA.

"For the most part, I think we just have to keep a level head," Latos said. "We know we have to continue to win ballgames. As long as we can win series, we have a chance to go somewhere."

During a 34-pitch bottom of the first inning, Latos encountered trouble quickly, especially after Paul Goldschmidt's two-out single to center field put runners on the corners. As he faced Justin Upton, Latos was called for a balk that brought Aaron Hill home for the game's first run.

"I felt really good in the 'pen today, so I think I was a little anxious in the first inning," Latos said. "It was a little adrenaline kick in the first inning. I kind of settled down the rest of the game."

In the fourth inning, Jake Elmore's two-out bloop double near the left-field line was barely missed on Heisey's diving attempt. Upton scored to give Arizona a two-run lead.

Latos, who gave up seven runs over five innings his last time out against the Cardinals, escaped the fourth by leaving runners on first and second before going on to retire 10 of his final 11 batters.

"It makes that off-day a lot nicer, because nothing is better than a win before the off-day," Baker said. "We ended that long, long streak of games and a lot of games in a short period of time. Our guys played through it, they battled and we had different heroes every night almost."

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.