Baker's defensive switch helps Reds hold on

Baker's defensive switch helps Reds hold on

Baker's defensive switch helps Reds hold on
MIAMI -- Reds manager Dusty Baker made two defensive changes before the bottom half of the 11th inning with the Reds holding a one-run lead against the Marlins.

Drew Stubbs went to center field and Chris Heisey, who started the game there, moved over to left for Ryan Ludwick, whose RBI single off Carlos Zambrano gave Cincinnati the lead in the top half of the frame.

Jonathan Broxton walked Donovan Solano with two outs before John Buck drilled a ball to straightaway center. Stubbs leapt near the wall in front of the 418-foot sign for the final out.

Broxton's second save in a Reds uniform salvaged the series finale -- a 5-4 victory over the Marlins on Sunday afternoon in front of 24,983 at Marlins Park.

"I knew in this ballpark never to give up on it, because it's so deep out there," said Stubbs, who started the first two games of the series in center. "We were playing deep to start so the runner couldn't go from first on a base hit. I was able to get back there in plenty of time. My only concern I had was that it was going to hit the side of the wall that juts in. But, fortunately, I was able to come up with that."

Added Miami shortstop Jose Reyes: "The wall is high, and the ballpark is big. The ball that Buck hit, that's a home run in any ballpark. So, I mean, what can we do?"

Zambrano, who fell behind each hitter, allowed a Heisey single and issued a walk to Joey Votto before Ludwick's grounder found the hole at short.

Cincinnati currently sits 11 games in front of the Cardinals in the National League Central, and their magic number to clinch the division is five.

"Obviously, we lost the first two and we didn't look quite as good as we have all year long," Ludwick said. "We didn't play our best baseball. We got the lead and they battled back, tied it up into extra innings. We really needed this win. It was a big one for us."

Local native Mat Latos, who entered the eighth inning at 95 pitches, gave up Reyes' two-out RBI double off the wall in right that tied the game at 4.

Pinch-hitter Austin Kearns singled against his former team to start the frame, and advanced to second on Bryan Petersen's sacrifice bunt.

The 24-year-old right-hander was searching for his first victory over the local team. Latos attended nearby Coconut Creek High School and Broward Community College.

"We had lost two in a row coming in and, again, getting a win is always good," said Latos, who has struck out eight or more batters in seven games this season. "I tried my best to keep us in [the game], and I [wound] up giving up the lead again. It's aggravating. It seems like it's been the story of the year for me, for the most part. We got a 'W' and we've got to move forward. That magic number is moving closer and closer."

The Reds collected three consecutive singles off Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco, the reigning National League co-Player of the Week, to take a 1-0 lead in the second on Didi Gregorius' first Major League RBI.

Todd Frazier reached an outside pitch that he lost his bat on, but still singled up the middle. Dioner Navarro followed with a single to right that put runners on the corners with one out. Gregorius' hit found the same hole through the infield.

Brandon Phillips' RBI groundout to third made it 2-0 in the fourth after back-to-back singles by Navarro and Gregorius. Latos moved them both over with a bunt.

But Latos faced control problems in the bottom half of the inning, walking Giancarlo Stanton and Carlos Lee with two outs before Greg Dobbs connected on a 1-0 pitch for a broken-bat triple to right that tied the game.

Navarro's two-out, broken-bat single up the middle in the fifth helped the Reds regain the lead. Votto and Ludwick started the inning with back-to-back singles. Jay Bruce struck out swinging and Frazier lined out to center before Navarro picked up his third hit of the game.

Ludwick's two-out bloop single against Ryan Webb over Reyes' glove in shallow left scored Phillips to put the Reds up, 4-2, in the sixth.

Miami cut the deficit to 4-3 in the seventh on Solano's sac fly to center with one out that scored Lee, who led off the inning with a double.

Despite tying a season high with 17 hits, the Reds struggled to get a timely hit, leaving 14 men on base. They stranded two runners in five different innings. Batters 6-8 in the order contributed eight of the 17 total hits.

"They're never easy for us," Baker said. "We did get a lot of hits, but left a ton of guys on base. We had a lot of opportunities, which is the name of the game. More opportunities you get, sooner or later you're going to bust through."

Christina De Nicola is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.