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Reds' offense continues struggle in loss to Cubs

Corcino allows two runs in 5 2/3 innings of second MLB start

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Reds' offense continues struggle in loss to Cubs play video for Reds' offense continues struggle in loss to Cubs

CHICAGO -- The Reds struck first but the Cubs answered quick and handed the Reds their ninth losing sweep, sixth in the second half, with Wednesday's 3-1 defeat.

Kristopher Negron led off the game with a double, moved to third on a sacrifice bunt by Ramon Santiago then scored on a groundout to short by Yorman Rodriguez.

The Cubs responded with a pair of one-out runs in the second -- a single and ground-rule double that got caught in the ivy, each driving in a run.

The Reds exceeded their hit total of four from the first two games of the series with seven Wednesday, but couldn't provide Daniel Corcino more than the one run of support. Cincinnati left seven stranded and went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, capped by a leaping grab into the wall by Chris Coghlan with Jake Elmore on second on a likely extra-base hit by Negron.

Corcino, making his second start in place of the injured Mat Latos, allowed two earned runs, three hits and four walks with six strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings. He threw 101 pitches (58 strikes), exceeding the century mark for the sixth time in 30 starts -- all in the Minors.

Jumbo Diaz allowed a run in the eighth.

Cubs rookie righty Kyle Hendricks picked up his eighth quality start in 12 tries since debuting July 10, also against the Reds. Hendricks allowed the one earned run, seven hits and no walks with four strikeouts.

With their 82nd loss, the Reds are assured to finish under .500 for the first time since going 79-83 in 2011.

Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Reds pondering Corcino's future as starter

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Reds pondering Corcino's future as starter play video for Reds pondering Corcino's future as starter

CHICAGO -- Right-hander Daniel Corcino has steadily worked his way into the Reds' long-term rotation conversation as season's end draws near.

Primarily a reliever during his seven-year Minor League tenure, Corcino made his second straight start Wednesday against the Cubs in place of right-hander Mat Latos, who continues to recover from a bone bruise in his pitching elbow.

In light of his unexpected starting opportunity, Corcino has been a pleasant surprise, manager Bryan Price said.

"He was more aggressive than anticipated," Price said Wednesday at Wrigley Field. "Really, our look at Daniel had been mostly in Spring Training with a couple relief appearances since his callup. One thing we really wanted him to do was go out and throw a lot more strikes than what we saw in Spring Training, and he's done that."

Corcino held the Brewers to two earned runs on two hits and a walk with four strikeouts in Friday's 3-2 loss. His efficiency drew praise from Price and teammates -- Corcino threw 79 pitches over six innings.

"He was aggressive in the strike zone; he got ahead. It made a big difference," Price said. "And when he wasn't ahead, he was still able to throw a changeup or a breaking ball over the plate for a strike, so they couldn't simply sit on his fastball, so I thought his location was very good. I thought he worked a very good gameplan, wasn't giving in to hitters and throwing a lot of good fastballs to hit when he was behind in the count."

Fellow callup and Minor League teammate Tucker Barnhart caught for Corcino on Wednesday. The two played together at three levels, and Barnhart said he's seen a more tempered repertoire in Corcino's approach the last two weeks.

"I think he commands his pitches a little bit better," Barnhart said. "When you're younger, you throw harder. We weren't real sure where he was going to go at times. I think his pitches weren't ready."

Corcino has tallied a career-high 157 1/3 innings between three levels this year, including 8 2/3 frames in three appearances with the Reds entering Wednesday. He was among 10 called up when rosters expanded in September.

Corcino's long-term durability in a starting role is the focal question heading into the offseason.

"The small handful of starts here in September at least give us the opportunity to evaluate his stuff," Price said. "Does it play as a guy that can go out there six-plus innings on a regular basis or is he better suited for the bullpen? Hopefully not a decision we have to make in too short of a time here."

Pending propelled progress by Latos -- he played catch Tuesday and Wednesday -- Corcino would likely start again next Wednesday against the Brewers.

Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["injury" ] }

Price hopes Votto, Latos return this season

Pair would only play if no extra risk of injury

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Price hopes Votto, Latos return this season play video for Price hopes Votto, Latos return this season

CHICAGO -- Reds manager Bryan Price believes returns by Joey Votto and Mat Latos before season's end would carry more weight than just a few extra wins over the final week.

The Reds, victors of 90 games last year that earned the second National League Wild Card, were eliminated from the NL Central race in Monday's 1-0 loss to the Cubs. They were 1 1/2 games out of first place at the All-Star break, but entered Wednesday having since gone 20-37 -- one of the worst second-half stretches in franchise history.

"Does it make sense to have these guys come back and play? That'll be an organizational decision," Price said. "I think the important thing is that they're both invested in playing.

"For me, this has been a pretty miserable second half of the season, and in large part because we haven't been able to string anything together. So having our players invested in finding some way to get back on the field, even if it's to help us in the last five or six games of the season, at least to me, that sends the right message on what we're about here. We're not just phoning it in and saying that the season is over.

The first-year manager was firm that neither Votto nor Latos would be rushed in their returns.

"If the feeling is from our medical staff that there's a probability of reinjury or setback, it wouldn't make any sense at all to play them," he said.

"If we're going: 'Hey, there's an increased risk of having a significant setback that could really affect the offseason plans for these guys,' then I don't think we would risk it," Price said. "But I do think we need to have an investment here for these guys to get back on the field.

"And they are baseball players -- they're supposed to be out on the field playing baseball if they're healthy."

Votto has endured a beleaguered season that's kept him sidelined for 96 of the Reds' 152 games. Out with a distal strain to his left quadriceps (a knee injury) since July 5, Votto has steered from the 15- to 60-day disabled list and was thought gone for the season after a slew of setbacks as recently as Sept. 5.

But consecutive days of batting practice are a significant step in his potential return. He took five sessions of BP on Wednesday, up from four the day prior.

"I thought he looked good -- didn't look like a guy coming off an injury," Price said after Votto's first session. "He may have felt that way seeing live pitching for the first time and out on the field. But I thought the ball came off the bat real nicely. He looked like a regular guy taking batting practice, not a guy that's been on the DL for the last couple months."

Latos missed his second straight start Wednesday due to a bone bruise in his pitching elbow. The right-hander's next scheduled outing would be next Wednesday against Milwaukee. Latos surely won't take away a start from Johnny Cueto, whom Price has been openly resolute for in his race to 20 wins. If Latos misses next Wednesday, he would likely supplant David Holmberg, Mike Leake or Alfredo Simon.

"I talked to him [Tuesday] about it and said, 'Our goal is to continue with the throwing protocol and build up your arm strength and verify that the soreness and inflammation is out,'" said Price. "And if it is and it makes sense, then he could potentially pitch again."

Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Reds' offense manages just one hit vs. Arrieta

Phillips breaks up no-no in eighth, but not enough against Cubs

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Reds' offense manages just one hit vs. Arrieta play video for Reds' offense manages just one hit vs. Arrieta

CHICAGO -- Jake Arrieta is proving to be a pesky opponent for the Reds.

Arrieta took a no-hitter deep into the game for the second time in three career starts against the Reds -- all this year -- this time coming five outs short. He finished Tuesday night's 7-0 win with a one-hitter in his first career shutout in front of 33,812 at Wrigley Field.

Brandon Phillips lined a double to deep left-center field that narrowly landed past a diving Matt Szczur. The drop prevented the Reds from going hitless for the first time since Game 1 of the 2010 National League Division Series by the Phillies' Roy Halladay.

Phillips' two-bagger was the only hit Arrieta allowed against 28 batters faced. He walked Billy Hamilton in the fourth, and struck out a career-high 13.

The 28-year-old righty fanned batters with five different pitches -- a two-seam fastball, changeup, sinker, slider and 11-5 curveball that he's steadily polished throughout the year. Four of his pitches Tuesday were used for multiple strikeouts, including four with the curve.

"There were some real, borderline bottom-of-the-zone pitches that he was able to nail with some consistency," Reds manager Bryan Price said of Arrieta, who picked up his 16th quality start in 21 tries. "He had the front door and back door cutter going; made some very good pitches.

"I thought he did a great job of working ahead. He used both sides of the plate. It as a very, very difficult matchup, and it would've been a difficult matchup for any club when he's locked in like that."

Reds ace Johnny Cueto didn't have the same showing. The All-Star righty loaded the bases five times Tuesday, issuing walks in two of those junctures.

Price, who met with Cueto on the mound in the sixth inning after the righty issued the first of the two, left the righty in to get the Reds out of the jam like he did in the first inning with three runners on.

"He might've been the only one on our staff that I would let pitch in that situation," Price said. "Through all the wildness of that inning, he probably would've been the only guy I would've allowed to do that. He's earned that right. It didn't work out obviously, but it wasn't from a lack of effort."

The manager admits that Cueto's race towards 20 wins were a contributing factor. He will have to win his final two scheduled starts against the Brewers on Sept. 23 and Pirates on Sept. 28, both at home, to reach the milestone, which would be a career first. Cueto won 19 games in 2012.

"Baseball is a statistical business and I would love to see him get an opportunity to win 20 games," Price said. "So right, typically if that's a midseason game and he's got 25 pitches in the inning and he walks in his second run, I'm going to go get him out of the ballgame."

Chris Coghlan delivered Cueto's final dagger in the sixth with a two-out, three-run double that extended the Cubs' lead to 6-0 in the sixth. Cueto allowed five of his six runs that inning, and faced eight batters.

Cueto was charged with six total earned runs with five hits and five walks over 5 2/3 innings. In three starts against the Cubs this year, Cueto is 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA, a .240 average against and 20 strikeouts.

His fastball, the pitch that's propelled him to 228 strikeouts this season, wasn't as commanding early, he said. He still posted eight strikeouts.

Catcher Brayan Peña added: "It's one of those things that shows you that Johnny is human."

Over five years in the Majors, Arrieta had never faced the Reds until June 24, in which he took a perfect game into the seventh. Billy Hamilton broke through with a single, and Arrieta allowed three hits and two earned runs that inning, but picked up the win.

In the seventh on Tuesday, Arrieta got Hamilton to fly out to left.

"Before the inning, I knew he was coming up, and replayed that in my head a couple times," Arrieta said of Hamilton. "I wanted to continue to do the same thing and try to keep him honest inside and try to get him to maybe roll something over or pop something up. He's a tough hitter. He's a tough out. He battles, and obviously when he gets on base, he can do some damage. It was nice to keep him off the bases."

Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["clemente_award" ] }

Schumaker honored as Clemente Award nominee

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Schumaker honored as Clemente Award nominee play video for Schumaker honored as Clemente Award nominee

CHICAGO -- First-year Reds outfielder Skip Schumaker was named as a finalist for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award, presented by Chevrolet. Major League Baseball announced the 30 finalists on Tuesday.

Schumaker is among 30 finalists, one from each team, for the honor bestowed to the MLB player that best represents the game on and off the field through positive contributions in sportsmanship and community involvement.

He looks to join Pete Rose (1976) and Barry Larkin (1993) as the third Reds recipient of the honor, the winner of which will be announced during the World Series.

"He's just one of those guys that gets it," Reds manager Bryan Price said, "understands the whole idea of being able to provide certain things through his connection with Major League Baseball and his celebrity that can raise awareness, raise funds and individually affect people that are struggling, in a positive way.

"I've been very impressed with Skip for a lot more than just his baseball acumen."

Initially known as the Commissioner's Award, the name was altered in 1973 in light of Clemente's tragic death in a plane crash while en route to aid earthquake victims in Nicaragua. The award's thesis captures the understanding of the importance of 'helping others.'

Schumaker's charity largely extends to children. He's led monthly hospital visits to the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, and contributed to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Schumaker is also an advocate of the Jessie Rees Foundation, which supports children fighting cancer.

"He's been great," Price said. "He's been very involved in the Reds community and in fundraising and being involved in the hospital visitations for the childrens' portion of the hospital [visits]. He gets it."

Out for the season after shoulder surgery last Thursday to repair a torn left labrum, Schumaker wasn't with the Reds in Chicago upon the announcement, but said in a statement: "I'm honored to use the platform I've been given to have an impact on kids and the community. I plan to make the most of this opportunity."

Fans can vote for Schumaker at ChevyBaseball.com until Oct. 6. The winner of the fan tally will account for one vote among the panel of baseball dignitaries -- Commissioner Bud Selig, MLB Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred, MLB Goodwill Ambassador and wife of Clemente, Vera Clemente; and representatives from Chevrolet, MLB.com and other media outlets.

The versatile Schumaker has played five positions in 83 games this year, and was batting .235/.287/.308 with 14 extra-base hits and 22 RBIs before his season-ending surgery last week.

Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["injury" ] }

Votto takes BP as return remains up in the air

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Votto takes BP as return remains up in the air play video for Votto takes BP as return remains up in the air

CHICAGO -- Joey Votto and Mat Latos made strides toward their potential return to the Reds by season's end on Tuesday at Wrigley Field.

Votto took infield batting practice for the first time since going on the disabled list with a distal strain of his left quadriceps on July 8. Latos, scratched from his last start Friday with a bone bruise in his pitching elbow, played catch in the outfield.

Votto took 21 cuts -- three sessions of five swings and the final with six. He ran sprints around the infield exterior before and after batting, then finished pregame practice fielding roughly 25 grounders.

The progress is a significant step in his return from the 60-day disabled list. Thought possibly gone for the season after a surplus of setbacks as recent as Sept. 5, Votto began taking flips in the batting cage on Sunday.

Manager Bryan Price said the Reds haven't "written anything in stone as far as where [Votto] needs to be by a certain date," but Votto has expressed hope to return within the final two weeks of the season.

"If we're able to get to the point where he can play in a game before season's end, I don't know that yet," Price said two hours before Votto took BP Tuesday. "This would be a step in the right direction."

The Reds' current, three-city, 10-day road trip is Votto's first since going on the disabled list. The former National League MVP is batting .255/.390/.409 with six home runs and 23 RBIs over 62 games, having spent a separate stint on the DL from May 21 to June 10 with the same injury.

Latos will not slide back in to his scheduled spot in the rotation on Wednesday. September callup Daniel Corcino, 24, will get the nod as he did Friday against the Brewers, when Latos was scratched.

Corcino allowed two earned runs, two hits and a walk against 22 batters with 79 pitches over six innings in the Reds' 3-2 loss Friday.

Cincinnati currently carries five healthy starters on its 40-man roster due Latos' and Homer Bailey's injuries, the latter out for the season with a strained flexor mass in his pitching elbow.

Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["replay" ] }

Review shows Cubs nab Hamilton at second

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Review shows Cubs nab Hamilton at second play video for Review shows Cubs nab Hamilton at second

CHICAGO -- The Reds' Billy Hamilton has nine stolen bases against the Cubs this season, but manager Rick Renteria denied a 10th theft in the fourth on Tuesday night.

Renteria challenged whether Hamilton was safe on a stolen base attempt, and the call was overturned after review.

Hamilton drew a walk against Chicago starter Jake Arrieta to open the fourth, and broke for second on the first pitch to Brayan Pena. Second-base umpire Bill Miller called Hamilton safe. Cubs catcher Welington Castillo's throw to Javier Baez was high, and the shortstop made an acrobatic catch.

The review comfirmed the tag was in time.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Simon strong, but Villarreal yields walk-off homer

Righty settles down after 26-pitch first inning, receives no-decision

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Simon strong, but Villarreal yields walk-off homer play video for Simon strong, but Villarreal yields walk-off homer

CHICAGO -- Anthony Rizzo's tie-breaking, walk-off homer that opened the ninth inning gave the Cubs a 1-0 win over the Reds and spoiled a strong start from Alfredo Simon on Monday night at Wrigley Field.

Rizzo, who had struck out twice against Simon in his first two at-bats, sent a 92-mph fastball to center field off Pedro Villarreal in his return from an 18-game hiatus due to lower back stiffness.

"It was a mistake that Rizzo took advantage of," Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said. "[Rizzo] looked a little rusty the first couple of at-bats, then he had the infield hit, and certainly is always a dangerous hitter. But it's typically going to be a simple mistake or someone taking advantage of something in a [tie] game like that's going to be the deciding factor."

The Cubs' slugger homered in his second straight game against the Reds, dating back to Aug. 26 when he belted his 30th before leaving due to the back problems that had sidelined him since until Monday.

Simon turned in his first shutout performance of the second half, hoping for a fruitful finish to his first full season in the Reds' rotation -- one that included his first All-Star Game appearance.

"I want to show them that I can be a starter for a long time here," said Simon, who threw seven scoreless innings with five hits, a walk and three strikeouts. "I try to finish strong."

Simon went seven innings for the third time in four starts, including Wednesday's 4-2 win over the Cardinals, just his second in 12 starts since the All-Star break.

Before that, he was 1-7 with a 5.27 ERA and .297 average against in the second half, prompting questions about his durability -- his 178 1/3 innings tally entering Monday far surpassed his previous high of 115 2/3 set in 2011 with Baltimore.

"My arm feels great and nothing is bothering me right now," Simon said. "I'm glad they gave me the opportunity this year to be a starter, and I'm happy with what I've done this year."

The Reds were held to just three singles by Cubs starter Travis Wood and then managed none a trio of relievers.

Both offenses were limited by the mid-50 degrees temperatures and 12-mph winds blowing in from the north.

Cubs shortstop Javier Baez belted a 2-2 fastball up-and-in to deep center in the first that Price said could've been a homer; same for a flyball hit by Kristopher Negron that gusted into the glove of sprinting Arismendy Alcantara on the warning track -- robbing an extra-base hit with a runner on in the eighth.

Rizzo's homer was the exception.

"Not to take anything away from the pitchers, I didn't think this was a completely conditioned-induced, 1-0 game," Price said. "I think the pitching was exceptional from both sides. We had the wind blowing straight in. You just flip the ball out there and let them drive it into the wind. Just [there] weren't a lot of opportunities."

The Reds left runners stranded in scoring position in the third after leading off with a single and walk. Simon's well-placed sacrifice bunt advanced Ramon Santiago and Jake Elmore, but Billy Hamilton whiffed and Negron flied out to center to end the inning.

Cincinnati put another pair on base in the second with two outs, but Santiago lined out to second baseman Logan Watkins.

Then came Negron's two-out flyball to center that likely would've gone for extra bases -- maybe even a score with Billy Hamilton on first.

Simon got out of a bases-loaded jam in the first by inducing a flyout in foul territory to Welington Castillo. Simon walked Luis Valbuena and allowed singles by Chris Coghlan and Jorge Soler to load the bases. Cincinnati's starter gave up only three hits over his next six innings.

In five games against the Cubs this year, Simon is 3-0 with a 1.10 ERA, .195 average against and 26 strikeouts.

"I thought he was a lot cleaner just with his command with his stuff down in the zone," Price said. "He had a good sinker and split combination working, threw some better curveballs, battled his way through the first inning. His pitch count was a little high in the first, but he found a way to lock it in and gave us seven real nice innings."

Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"event":["prospect" ] }

Price looking forward to seeing prospects play

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Price looking forward to seeing prospects play play video for Price looking forward to seeing prospects play

CHICAGO -- Three September callups made their way into the lineup Monday against the Cubs.

Yorman Rodriguez, who is the Reds' No. 12-ranked prospect, Jason Bourgeois and Jake Elmore went a combined 1-for-8 in a 1-0 loss, one in which Cincinnati recorded just three hits.

Manager Bryan Price said that the Reds haven't used many of the new additions to the expanded roster due to the tight pennant races that many division foes are in. The Pirates, Cardinals and Brewers are all contending for the playoffs. The Reds' prior two series before Monday were against the latter two.

"We try to respect that," Price said. "We're running most of our regular players out there as often as possible. So this is a great opportunity for them to play, No. 1. No. 2, to get a little more evaluation time before Spring Training of 2015. So I'm looking forward to seeing them play."

September callup Daniel Corcino takes the mound Wednesday amid rotation attrition that has sidelined right-handers Mat Latos and Homer Bailey.

Bailey is done for the year with a strained flexor mass in his pitching elbow. Latos was scratched from last Friday's start against the Brewers with a bone bruise in his pitching elbow since. He hasn't yet been cleared to play catch.

"Undoubtedly, you don't always bring the same team back intact, so it's nice to know what we have in our system," Price said. "Either for guys that have a chance maybe to make our club out of Spring Training next year or at least from a depth perspective down in [Triple-A] Louisville in the next season."

Price noted that he will likely dish out a lineup on Tuesday attuned to Johnny Cueto, the team's All-Star starter.

"It'll be certainly a lineup that you would for the most part come to expect when he pitches -- guys that have been here with us -- and then we'll see what happens on Wednesday," Price said.

Daniel Kramer is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Leake labors, cites 'dead arm' in loss to Brewers

Righty surpasses 200-innings mark for first time; bats, 'pen struggle

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Leake labors, cites 'dead arm' in loss to Brewers play video for Leake labors, cites 'dead arm' in loss to Brewers

MILWAUKEE -- For the first time in his career, Reds pitcher Mike Leake crossed the 200-innings threshold Sunday afternoon as he faced the Brewers. It's something that the right-hander has sought to achieve, but the satisfaction of a victory did not come with it.

Leake's performance was rocky throughout a 9-2 loss as the Reds dropped two of three in the series at Miller Park. Over the six innings labored, he allowed three runs, eight hits and three walks and struck out three.

"I was trying to find the zone and trying to hit spots, but it was not easy today," Leake said. "I had a little dead arm today. I didn't have the full ability to give full effort today. Dead arm can get you. It's one of those things that's hard to explain, but everybody understands what it is."

In 202 1/3 innings while tying the career-high 31-start mark he reached last season, Leake is 11-12 with a 3.65 ERA.

"Coming into the season, [200 innings] wasn't my complete goal. But as I was approaching it, it became my one goal for this year," said Leake, who had 192 1/3 innings last season. "Now my next goal is try to get to 210. We'll see what happens."

Through the first two innings, Leake had already issued three walks and a pair of hits. He stranded six men on base and had only Carlos Gomez's second-inning sacrifice fly to have his club trailing, 1-0.

Leake was one strike from escaping a jam in the fourth with two runners on and two outs. He had Jonathan Lucroy down 0-2 when the All-Star catcher lined a two-run single to center field to make it a 3-0 game.

"Certainly not his best stuff, or more importantly, his best command," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He was behind a lot, yanking a lot of pitches off the plate. That doesn't happen very often with Leaker. … They didn't expand their zone much and made him work."

Brewers starter Matt Garza gave up one run over six-plus innings on Todd Frazier's first-pitch homer to left field that led off the sixth. Billy Hamilton started the game with an infield single and stole second base, but Garza retired his next eight in a row. The next Reds hits didn't come until back-to-back, two-out singles from Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick in the fourth.

"He was down in the zone," Price said of Garza. "One thing about this series, this umpiring crew called that really low, bottom of the zone strike, and they called it consistently. Pitchers that were able to get the ball down there on the plate had a lot of success."

The game got away from Cincinnati once struggling reliever Logan Ondrusek entered in the five-run seventh. Ondrusek faced seven batters and was charged with all five earned runs and five hits, including Matt Clark's three-run homer that increased the deficit to seven runs.

In his last 9 2/3 innings since returning from the disabled list Aug. 18, Ondrusek has allowed 10 runs. Carlos Contreras gave up a single and two walks before getting the final out in the seventh.

Cincinnati emptied the bench in the one-run top of the ninth, including September callup Yorman Rodriguez getting his first big league hit. Rodriguez pinch-hit and led off with a single up the middle against reliever Rob Wooten and later scored.

Now 71-79 and 12 games out of first place, the Reds' elimination number is one -- meaning either the next win by the first-place Cardinals or another Reds loss eliminates them from contending for the National League Central.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

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Aiming to return this season, Votto takes another step

Reds star slated to take underhand flips while hitting in indoor cage

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Aiming to return this season, Votto takes another step play video for Aiming to return this season, Votto takes another step

MILWAUKEE -- Reds first baseman Joey Votto continued this weekend to take small steps toward possibly getting back to playing before the regular season. On Sunday, Votto was slated to take underhand flips while hitting in an indoor cage.

It's viewed as a small, but necessary, progression as Votto works his back from a distal strain of the left quadriceps that has had him on the disabled list since July 8.

"Getting in there, it's the first time I'll get to work in the cage with [hitting coaches] Don Long and Lee Tinsley. That's the final step before taking batting practice on the field," Votto said.

Votto, who is traveling on the road for the first time since he went on the DL for the second time with the quad injury, had been hitting off a tee and taking ground balls for the past several days without issue.

"I definitely feel like I've made tremendous progress," Votto said.

There are two weeks remaining in the regular season, and the Reds are nearing elimination from contending, but the club is still looking for Votto to make incremental progress toward playing. Hitting flips is one more step in intensity that Votto puts on his leg.

"It's day-to-day, station-to-station," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Everything he's been doing has been increased effort from when he takes ground balls, moving laterally side-to-side, the running -- it's just a progression."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

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Holmberg's first MLB win spoils Crew's push

Rookie lefty goes six strong, combines with bullpen to two-hit Brewers

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Holmberg's first MLB win spoils Crew's push play video for Holmberg's first MLB win spoils Crew's push

MILWAUKEE -- Lefty David Holmberg's introduction to Reds fans earlier this summer was memorable for all the wrong reasons. Called up for two spot starts, Holmberg was pummeled both times and exited quickly.

There has been little to complain about lately regarding Holmberg's work. The rookie and September callup provided six quality innings and earned his first big league victory during a 5-1 Reds win over the Brewers on Saturday night at Miller Park. Cincinnati has won four of its last five games.

"I just really believe this September is hugely important for David, simply to have the opportunity to pitch and get a bit more comfortable as we head into 2015," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He's taking advantage of his opportunities."

Holmberg gave up one earned run -- on Aramis Ramirez's leadoff home run in the fourth inning -- and both of Milwaukee's two hits in the game while walking two, hitting two batters and striking out four. Facing an entirely right-handed lineup, he threw only 87 pitches -- relying largely on an 86-89-mph fastball and an effective changeup.

"If it's thrown correctly, it comes in looking like a fastball and you go to get it, and it's not there yet," Price said of Holmberg's changeup. "When you're conscious of staying back to battle the changeup, the fastball is even more effective -- especially when you're getting it inside to right-handed hitters. I think he was able to balance it out. Between he and Devin [Mesoraco], I thought they had a very good game plan and made a lot of outstanding pitches."

It wasn't a smooth first inning for Holmberg as he hit two batters and walked another, but he came out of it unharmed. Leadoff batter Carlos Gomez was hit on the leg with a pitch and Ryan Braun walked on four pitches. The Reds caught a break when Jonathan Lucroy grounded into a double play at shortstop where Braun was out at second base and Gomez was caught in a rundown going to third base.

Yovani Gallardo kept the Reds hitless for three innings, but they took a 2-0 lead when the right-hander labored in the fourth. With the bases loaded and no outs, Brandon Phillips walked to force home Brayan Pena. Jay Bruce lifted a sacrifice fly to left field that scored Todd Frazier, but Mesoraco broke too far from second base and became the second out in a rundown.

Cincinnati scored two more runs in the seventh inning against Zach Duke on Billy Hamilton's two-out, two-run triple and added another run in the eighth.

Holmberg gave up an infield hit to Hector Gomez in the second inning and began the bottom of the fourth by giving up his only other hit on Ramirez's leadoff homer to center field on a 1-1 pitch. After that, Holmberg retired nine of his next 10 batters. In his sixth and final inning, he retired the side on just five pitches.

"It felt good," Holmberg said of his last inning. "With those guys up there hacking, I should have had more innings that were five pitches. They battled and I just made pitches that inning and got through it quick."

Over his last three appearances, Holmberg has given up one run over 12 2/3 innings. In an emergency relief appearance on Monday vs. the Cardinals after Dylan Axelrod was injured in the first inning, he worked 5 2/3 scoreless innings. In an inauspicious first two spot starts -- on July 8 vs. the Cubs and Aug. 21 vs. the Braves -- Holmberg lasted only 2 2/3 innings both times. He allowed a combined 11 runs and 12 hits, including four homers.

Those starts left him with an 18.56 ERA, but Holmberg has trimmed his ERA down to 6.00 and will get more chances this season to continue to bring it down.

Considering his struggles earlier in the season, Holmberg was able to keep doubt from creeping in as he pitched -- especially during the shaky first inning.

"In order to be effective as a pitcher in the Major Leagues, you have to be able to overcome it and just get back to what you know and make pitches," Holmberg said.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

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Key connections: Star-Spangled Banner, baseball forever linked

Verses that became National anthem celebrates 200 years, is part of baseball's fabric

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Francis Scott Key never got to see a big league baseball game. He died in 1843, some 26 years before the first professional team was established. But you can imagine his joy if he did get that chance. These days, he'd probably sit in a shiny bleacher seat, waiting for a batting-practice homer with a soft, weathered glove raised high ... in his non-writing hand. Maybe he'd inhale a hot dog while jotting down a few pretty lines for his next song. That would come about an hour before he'd hear the iconic bars of his first one, which, contrary to American lore, does not end with the words, "Play Ball." Odds are he'd be pretty happy at the twilight's last gleaming.

This weekend, the celebration of the 200th anniversary of our national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," is on, and Key's memory is being rightly feted for his poetic description from the "dawn's early light" of Sept. 14, 1814, at the height of the War of 1812.

Hours after being stuck on a ship in Baltimore Harbor as the British pounded Fort McHenry in the Battle of Baltimore, Key saw the skies clear from the smoke and the indelible image that "our flag was still there."

The verses were called "The Defence of Fort M'Henry," and it was put to the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven," a British drinking song purportedly written by John Stafford Smith that had been composed more than 30 years earlier and served as the theme of the Anacreontic Society of London, a men's club of amateur musicians.

Soon after Key wrote the words, a local newspaper gave it the title "The Star-Spangled Banner," and in 1931, it became our official anthem. All the while, another grand tradition steeped in collective nostalgia and American togetherness -- the game of baseball -- was steaming along, gaining prominence in our country's conscience.

Not surprisingly, the national anthem and the National Pastime became stitched together forever, like red laces in white horsehide.

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball, the playing of the national anthem before big league games did not become an everyday tradition until 1942. Taking that into account (and including a slight margin of error based on the lack of documentation regarding split doubleheaders in the earlier days), the Star-Spangled Banner has been heard right before the first pitch of at least the last 121,000 games. Oh, say can you see, indeed.

So with that in mind, 200 years after the night a 35-year-old Washington, D.C.-based attorney known to friends as Frank found himself under a war-torn sky, with honor in his heart and a pen in his hand, we go around the horn with nine things to know about "The Star-Spangled Banner" and its now-eternal link to the national pastime.

1. A first for everything
The first time the song was played at a baseball game was May 15, 1862, at William Cammeyer's Union Grounds park in Brooklyn. It had been converted from an ice skating venue into a field for summer sports, including what, at the time, was known as "base ball." In the midst of the Civil War, a band played "The Star-Spangled Banner."

The first big league Opening Day to feature the eventual anthem took place in Philadelphia on April 22, 1897. The New York Tribune newspaper included a brief and lyrical account of the game: "Opening Day here was a great success. The weather was delightful and the attendance numbered 17,074. The players paraded across the field, company front, and then raised the new flag, while the band played 'The Star Spangled Banner.' "

In spite of all the pageantry, there had to be some accounting for the four errors that led the Phillies to a 5-1 victory over the Giants at the Baker Bowl.

"The game was rather dull and long-drawn out," the article read, "and on the part of the New-Yorkers was somewhat unsteadily played."

2. An unforgettable rendition
The first national anthem played at a World Series game occurred on Sept. 5, 1918, during World War I, when Major League players were in the midst of being drafted into service. The regular season was ordered by the government to be completed by Labor Day, hence the Fall Classic that year was played in September.

The Cubs borrowed Comiskey Park from the White Sox to take advantage of the larger seating capacity, but things got quiet in Game 1, a 1-0 shutout by Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth. But that game will be forever remembered for what occurred in the seventh inning.

That was when the military band on hand struck up "The Star-Spangled Banner," and the song took on a different meaning. Red Sox third baseman Fred Thomas, for example, was on furlough from the Navy, and he saluted the flag during the playing of the song.

And then the crowd caught on. The New York Times opened its account of the game by writing, "Far different from any incident that has ever occurred in the history of baseball was the great moment of the first world's series game between the Chicago Cubs and the Boston Red Sox, which came at Comiskey Park this afternoon during the seventh-inning stretch" and then continued with the play-by-play … of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

"First the song was taken up by a few, then others joined, and when the final notes came, a great volume of melody rolled across the field. It was at the very end that the onlookers exploded into thunderous applause and rent the air with a cheer that marked the highest point of the day's enthusiasm."

The Cubs and Red Sox repeated the tradition for the rest of the Series.

3. Making it official
Even though the Secretary of the Navy in 1889 had designated "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the official song to be played at the raising of the flag, and even though President Woodrow Wilson, a huge baseball fan himself, treated it and referred to it as our national anthem, it had failed to stick in Congress after numerous attempts in the 1920s.

Baseball's increased use of the song prior to games, a petition with millions of signatures, and a nice little push from noted composer John Philip Sousa helped finally get the job done on March 3, 1931, when President Herbert Hoover signed into law the establishment of the song as the official national anthem of the United States of America.

4. A lasting tradition
"The Star-Spangled Banner" still wasn't being played before every baseball game in 1941, but on April 26, 1941, the ball got rolling in the Bronx. As The New York Times reported, "With more war new in the making, president Ed Barrow of the Yankees ordered that 'The Star-Spangled Banner' be played before all games at the Stadium.

"Meanwhile, all continued to go well for the Yankees and [Joe] DiMaggio. He singled home a run in the first and scored twice as New York beat Washington 8-3 for its fourth straight victory."

By the following year, with the country deep in World War II, the anthem became the daily staple of baseball that we know today.

And DiMaggio was still hitting.

5. Controversy hits the field
It was October 1968, and the country was fighting in Vietnam and had already lived through the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that year. Protests were boiling over in the streets at home, and the Detroit Tigers were hosting the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

Jose Feliciano was a 23-year-old blind folk singer from Puerto Rico who had scored a hit on the U.S. charts with a cover of The Doors' "Light My Fire," and Tigers radio legend Ernie Harwell invited him to sing the national anthem at Tiger Stadium prior to Game 5.

Feliciano was accompanied in left field by his acoustic guitar and his guide dog, Trudy, and he launched into an emotional, heartfelt, and, well, different version of "The Star-Spangled Banner." He strummed the guitar in a slightly syncopated, Latin-influenced rhythm, careened back and forth from the traditional vocal melody to something more adventurous, and offered the finishing flourish of "Yeah, yeah."

It was bold and innovative and fresh, but it was also many years ahead of its time. Feliciano was booed heartily by the crowd and caused a public uproar that took years to live down.

"Back then, when the anthem was done at ballgames, people couldn't wait for it to be over," Feliciano told The Guardian last month. "And I wanted to make them sit up and take notice and respect the song. I was shocked when I was booed. I felt, 'God, what have I done wrong?' All I was trying to do was create a soulful rendition. I never in my wildest dreams thought I was going to have the country against me, radio stations stop playing me.

"But in part, it was good -- because I ended up meeting my wife. She couldn't understand the injustice and started a fan club, even though we'd never met. We fell in love and the rest is history."

On Oct. 14, 2012, prior to Game 1 of the National League Championship Series at AT&T Park in San Francisco, the same stylized, heartfelt version of the national anthem was performed by Feliciano on his acoustic guitar.

This time the crowd roared.

6. "O"-dience participation
The anthem itself is a tradition, and at Oriole Park in Camden Yards in Baltimore, there's a tradition baked into the tradition. When the song rounds third base and heads for home with, "O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave," the crowd screams the "O" together, celebrating their beloved O's.

This started at the old Memorial Stadium in the club's pennant-winning season of 1979. Out in Section 34 of the upper deck, Orioles superfan Wild Bill Hagy would lead fans in chants of O-R-I-O-L-E-S, with the emphasis on the "O." Mary Powers sat nearby and took the inspiration to another level.

"We would accentuate the 'O' in any word that would have an 'O,' and one night when they were playing the anthem, I thought, 'There's an 'O!' in this song,' and the first time I did it, I remember people turning around and looking like, 'Oh, my God, I can't believe she just did that,' " Powers recently told WBAL-TV.

"Well, Wild Bill had a little grin on his face, so the next night, he did it with me, and once he put his blessing on it, everybody started to do it."

Orioles fans still do it -- loudly -- and will likely be doing it in October this year.

7. Setting the (low) Barr
We all know now that Feliciano's rendition was eventually respected, if not appreciated. We all also know now that the version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" performed by comedian Roseanne Barr before a Padres-Reds doubleheader at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego on July 25, 1990, was not.

Barr screeched a fast, off-key rendition of the anthem that drew loud boos midway through, and when she was finished, she grabbed her crotch and spit, as if to mimic a ballplayer. The joke bombed, she was lambasted all over TV and in the newspapers, and she inspired President George H. W. Bush to call the whole act "disgraceful."

Bush's comment was met with bipartisan approval.

8. A hymn of healing
The horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, changed the United States forever, but not only in tragic ways. The courage, brotherhood and human decency shown that day in New York, Washington, D.C., and on a hijacked airplane that would crash in a Pennsylvania field showed our country's strength and will to persevere.

The emotion was palpable 10 days later when the Mets played the Braves at Shea Stadium in the first professional sporting event in New York City since the attacks. Marc Anthony delivered a somber rendition without musical accompaniment and the game was played quietly until the eighth inning, when Piazza's two-run home run gave the Mets the lead and got the crowd going again.

"I remember standing on the line during the national anthem -- actually when the bagpipes and band came out -- I said to myself, 'Please, God, give me the strength to get through this,' " Piazza told the New York Daily News in 2008. "I was fortunate to find the strength to hit a home run in that situation. I'm flattered, I'm honored that people put that moment as a time where it helped the city at least have a little bit of joy in a really tough week."

9. 200 and many more
Every year now, we're treated to incredible musical talent on the baseball field. From the seasoned operatic pipes of longtime Yankees national anthem singer Robert Merrill to commercial acts James Taylor, Paul Simon, Sammy Davis Jr., John Legend, Lyle Lovett, the Grateful Dead, Slash from Guns N' Roses, Mary J. Blige, Billy Joel, Idina Menzel, Kelly Clarkson and countless others, it's now a grand American tradition to bring out the best in the business to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the biggest baseball games.

But Sunday, the song itself will shine.

At Fort McHenry in Baltimore, a real-time anniversary program will kick off, with artillery salutes, a reading of the song's four stanzas and a replica 15-star, 15-stripe flag raising at precisely 9 a.m. to commemorate the history that Key had witnessed.

And MLB teams playing at home will show a special video montage of "The Star-Spangled Banner." In conjunction with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and the program Great Performances, Maryland Public Television has provided the montage originally seen in the PBS production Star-Spangled Banner: The Bicentennial of our National Anthem to the ballparks and to MLB.com and all 30 club websites and official MLB social media channels.

Fittingly, the last game on Sunday will be played at Camden Yards, about three miles away from Fort McHenry, and fittingly, the Orioles will play the Yankees.

We all know what song we'll hear right before the first pitch.

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Reds fall, but Corcino impressive in first career start

Filling in for injured Latos, righty limits Crew to two runs in six innings

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MILWAUKEE -- Back at the All-Star break when the Brewers were riding high in first place and the Reds sat just 1 1/2 games out in the National League Central, a September showdown between the teams had the makings of a classic pennant-chase battle.

Fast forward to Friday night at Miller Park -- the fading Brewers are just trying to hang on for a NL Wild Card spot. The Reds are reduced to trying to play spoiler and getting a look at what some young players can do. While they dropped a 3-2 decision on a bases-loaded single by Lyle Overbay in the ninth inning, eyes were opened about starting pitching prospect Daniel Corcino.

In his first big league start, and third game in the Majors, Corcino was tasked with replacing the injured Mat Latos. Corcino, who spent most of this season at Double-A Pensacola, did a nice job as he went six innings and allowed two earned runs, two hits and one walk with four strikeouts in a no-decision.

"We didn't know what to expect," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He impressed me a great deal. No. 1, he threw the ball over the plate consistently. And No. 2, he competed extremely well. He was able to throw his breaking ball and changeup for strikes behind in the count. He's a little bit more polished than I anticipated seeing and he handled that situation very, very well."

Two batters into the game against Kyle Lohse, Kristopher Negron gave the Reds a 1-0 lead with a homer to center field. It held for a while as Corcino retired his first nine batters.

In the Milwaukee fourth, Carlos Gomez struck out and went to first base on a wild pitch and catcher Brayan Pena's errant throw on the play put Gomez on second base. Jonathan Lucroy hit a one-out RBI single to right field and after another wild pitch, Lucroy scored on Ryan Braun's RBI single.

Corcino did not allow another hit and retired seven of his last eight batters.

"I just tried to make a first-pitch strike and good things happened," said Corcino, who also singled in his first Major League at-bat.

There were no nerves about a first start to shake for the 24-year-old Corcino, who made his big league debut out of the bullpen Aug. 26. He was informed he might get the ball Friday when Latos was diagnosed with a bone bruise in his right elbow.

"As soon as I got to the mound, I forgot about everything," Corcino said. "You've got to the do the job. I never was nervous."

"He was gaining confidence every time he went out there," Pena said. "Every inning, he was trusting his stuff more and more. I was very encouraged to see a guy like that coming up in such a big stage and pitched a great baseball game like he did."

Against Jumbo Diaz in the bottom of the ninth of a 2-2 game, Lucroy hit a drive to left-center field for a double. With one out and Lucroy on third, Price elected to intentionally walk Braun and Gerardo Parra and load the bases.

Overbay roped Diaz's first pitch to left-center field for a walk-off single. It was the Major League-most 36th one-run loss for the Reds.

"Overbay is an accomplished, seasoned hitter as well," Price said about passing on Braun and Parra. "But we had to pick our poison there. I thought we had a better chance there. He doesn't run as well as Parra. I was going for the double play there. He did his job. He got a good first pitch to hit out over the plate and he hit it hard."

Cincinnati (70-78) fell 11 games behind the first-place Cardinals and have an elimination number of four. Milwaukee (77-71) remains 1 1/2 games out of the second Wild Card spot and four behind the Cards.

Latos' turn to pitch comes up again Wednesday vs. the Cubs, but the ball could wind up in Corcino's hand.

"We don't have a ton of starting options on our roster," Price said. "Certainly with the way he threw the ball today, he deserves an opportunity to throw if Mat's not ready to go."

Corcino was eager for another chance.

"I have an opportunity," he said. "I've got to prepare for five days and be ready for the next start to do the same or better."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

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Latos scratched with bone bruise in right elbow

Righty hopes to make next start; injury not related to October elbow surgery

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MILWAUKEE - The Reds announced Friday afternoon that pitcher Mat Latos was scratched from his start vs. the Brewers in Friday's series opener because of a bone bruise in his right elbow. Latos was replaced by rookie Daniel Corcino, a 24-year-old September callup.

Latos, 26, underwent a MRI exam Thursday in Cincinnati that revealed no serious damage to the elbow. Reds manager Bryan Price didn't believe it would be a season-ending injury for Latos, even with only a couple of weeks of games remaining on the schedule.

"I think he's going to be fine," Price said. "We do want to give him a couple of days of no throw and treatment and then we'll reevaluate."

However, it is not known how long Latos will be unable to pitch.

"Hopefully it's just a one-week thing," Latos said. "I hope I'm able to get out there for my next start and pitch. I don't have a timeline. I don't know anything other than I need to be in for treatment."

The next time Latos' spot in the rotation comes up is Wednesday vs. the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The Reds are listing that spot as "TBA."

Latos is 5-5 with a 3.25 ERA in 16 starts this season. He opened the season on the disabled list after he needed to continue his rehab from right elbow and left knee surgeries. After a couple of setbacks, he made his 2014 debut June 14.

In his previous start Sunday, Latos allowed three unearned runs and seven hits over six innings for a 4-3 loss to the Mets.

According to Latos and Price, the latest injury is not related to his October elbow surgery that required bone chips to be removed. There was no specific incident where Latos hurt his elbow, such as being hit by a ball.

"This is something I've probably thrown with the past three starts," Latos said. "I couldn't get a lot of extension. It just progressively got worse. The game before last, instead of throwing a bullpen, I threw on flat ground. Then the following bullpen session the other day, I tried to throw another [one on] flat ground and just couldn't. I threw maybe about 15 throws and it just really started bugging me."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

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MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

Past success indicative of Reds' future

Recent playoff appearances fuel club's 2015 prospects

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MLB.com Columnist

Mike Bauman

MILWAUKEE -- This season has not been a time for celebration in Cincinnati. But upon reflection, there is reason to believe that this year can be safely regarded as an aberration, not a trend.

The Reds in 2015 should have, given the good health that eluded them this season, a fine starting rotation and a lineup far more productive than their offense has been in 2014. Those are the building blocks of success for any team, but Cincinnati has learned not to take anything for granted.

This was a postseason team three of the last four seasons. Expecting more of the same was well within reason for 2014. Injuries early and underachievement later undermined the high expectations. But the recent past was better than this. The future should be, too.

Reds manager Bryan Price on Friday was asked to ponder the future. He did so with an analysis that was optimistic yet objective.

"The things that I believe in firmly, when we were healthy, we got really good performances out of our starting rotation," Price said. "We weren't playing well at the time, but Homer [Bailey's] four starts post-All Star Game, he had a [1.61] ERA. He was really working his way toward being that dominant guy.

"With the consistency of [Mike] Leake, the dominance of [Johnny] Cueto, the performance of what we couldn't have ever anticipated from [Alfredo] Simon and then [Mat] Latos, when he came back off the DL, was very good. And I would anticipate that next year he would be even better, a year removed from the problems that he had this year."

Latos was scratched from his scheduled start Friday night against the Brewers because of a bone bruise in his right elbow. Both Latos and Price said the injury was not related to his earlier surgery in which bone chips were removed from his elbow. In place of Latos, Daniel Corcino made his first Major League start and pitched more than capably. The Reds lost, 3-2, on a walk-off single by Milwaukee's Lyle Overbay, leaving Cincinnati's record at 70-78.

"This isn't where we anticipated being at the end of the year, but it is a chance for us to see some of our young prospects and be able to evaluate," Price said. "When you look at it from a positive standpoint, you're looking at the development of [infielder Todd] Frazier and [catcher Devin] Mesoraco as offensive forces.

"And then if you look at 2015, [center fielder Billy] Hamilton, a year better, more experienced, getting a better understanding of how the league wants to pitch him and how they want to defend him. If you have a [Joey] Votto, Frazier, Mesoraco, [second baseman Brandon] Phillips, [outfielder Jay] Bruce, that type of group, playing at their ability, it's a pretty nice group right there.

"Being healthy and getting the production that we anticipate would be key. This year, we had a hard time getting the production that we hoped for. That definitely has to change. We need this to be a little bit more of a dynamic offensive ballclub."

A wave of injuries hurt the Reds early. Injuries were numerous and in one case truly frightening, when closer Aroldis Chapman was struck in the head by a line drive in a Cactus League game.

And yet, the Reds didn't fold. They were 51-44 at the All-Star break and 1 1/2 games out of first in the National League Central. They became healthier in the second half, although they have been without first baseman Votto, the focal point of their offense. But Cincinnati has gone 19-34 since the break, and it was tied for last in the Majors in runs scored in the second half coming into the weekend.

"It's hard not to associate disappointment with our season," Price said. "I know we came out of Spring Training banged up, but we answered the bell for 95 games. I don't think anybody could have anticipated us enduring that surplus-type of injuries and be seven games over .500 and 1 1/2 games out after 95 games.

"The thing that doesn't correlate is that we've been healthier after the All-Star Game. Even though we didn't have Brandon, our pitching looked good for the most part. We were, minus Homer and Joey, pretty close to 100 percent of what we anticipated we would have, but we just weren't able to get anything going."

There needs to be, Price said, "more detail work"-- better bunting, better baserunning, better situational hitting. Improved "organizational depth" would also help.

"We've been challenged to a certain degree, because we were playing so many of our bench players, certainly in the first two-thirds of the season as regulars or on a rotational basis," Price said. "I think stronger organizational depth will help us.

"We did get a chance to get an awful good look at some of these guys that we didn't anticipate seeing a lot of this year," Price said, mentioning Kristopher Negron, Jumbo Diaz and Ryan Dennick as three young performers who had taken advantage of big league opportunities.

The Reds will have arbitration eligibility for key players to factor into their plans for next year. Difficult decisions may have to be made. But they can also approach the 2015 season with the reasonable thought that their front-line personnel should have both better health and improved productivity than they have had in a discouraging 2014 campaign.

Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Schumaker has season-ending shoulder surgery

Procedure repairs torn labrum; Price hopes veteran is '100 percent' by spring camp

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MILWAUKEE -- Reds outfielder/infielder Skip Schumaker season ended Thursday when he had successful surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

Schumaker made his final appearance of 2014 as a pinch-hitter Thursday against the Cardinals. In the eighth inning batting for Johnny Cueto, he flied out to left field. Manager Bryan Price noted Schumaker could have played through the final two weeks of the season.

"We just felt like until we really checked the shoulder and got in there, we didn't know how long it would take to do the rehab and recovery," Price said. "We decided to be aggressive on it and get a jump-start on it. We look forward having him at Spring Training, hopefully 100 percent healthy."

Schumaker originally dislocated his left shoulder trying to make a diving catch March 21 during Spring Training, which put him on the disabled list until May 3. On July 10 vs. the Cubs, he injured the same shoulder in a collision with the right-field wall trying to make a catch at Great American Ball Park. That incident also left him with a concussion that put him out for nine days.

"He was never 100 percent. He was just playing at whatever he had," Price said. "He kept that very much to himself. He didn't ever say that he couldn't go -- from the shoulder -- not once did he say he couldn't go. The concussion thing, we had to take the lead on that because he was having some persistent issues with it that he couldn't deny."

Schumaker, 34, signed a two-year, $5 million contract with the Reds as a free agent in November. It came with a $2.5 million club option for 2016.

This season, Schumaker batted .235/.287/.308 with two home runs and 22 RBIs in 83 games. He made a total of 61 starts in right field, center field, left field and second base. He also made one relief appearance vs. the Braves during an 8-0 Reds loss and threw a scoreless ninth inning.

"He just wanted to play. He was going to give us 100 percent of whatever he had -- if it was 80 percent or 40 percent," Price said.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

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Frazier third Reds third baseman in 20-20 club

All-Star swipes 20th base, joines A. Boone, Sabo

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MILWAUKEE -- With a steal of second base Friday night at Miller Park, Todd Frazier became a rarity in Reds history. Frazier is only the third third baseman to become a 20-20 man -- with at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases.

In the top of the first inning against Brewers pitcher Kyle Lohse, Frazier hit a one-out single to center field. With two outs and Brandon Phillips batting, Lohse fired a pickoff throw as Frazier broke from first base. Frazier, who has a career-high 25 home runs, reached second base safely for his 20th steal of the season.

Frazier joined Aaron Boone (2002) and Chris Sabo (1990) as the only Reds third basemen in the 20-20 club.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

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{"content":["top_pitching_performances" ] }

Reds ride Cueto, defense to shutout, series win

Bruce's homer-robbing catch aids ace's gem against Cardinals

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Reds ride Cueto, defense to shutout, series win play video for Reds ride Cueto, defense to shutout, series win

CINCINNATI -- The way things had been going for Johnny Cueto and Lance Lynn, a pitching duel on Thursday afternoon between the two wouldn't exactly have been a far-fetched proposition.

The two right-handers matched each other inning for inning for seven scoreless frames. But thanks to a highlight-reel catch by right fielder Jay Bruce that robbed Matt Adams of a home run and the Cincinnati offense finally breaking through in the eighth, the Reds beat the Cardinals, 1-0, to take three of four from St. Louis at Great American Ball Park.

The series win over St. Louis was the Reds' first in five tries this season, and just their second in the last 13 series against the Cardinals overall.

In the seventh, Adams hit a deep drive to right field against Cueto. Bruce drifted back, timed his leap and reached over the wall to preserve the scoreless tie. A fan was reaching for the ball simultaneously, but Bruce managed to snag the ball anyway.

"You've got to try and get back there as fast as you can and find the way in the process," Bruce said. "I knew it was going to be close. I didn't know if it would be just out of reach. You never want to assume because you don't want to assume it's gone and get back there and it hits the wall."

Needless to say, Cueto was appreciative of Bruce's effort.

"I looked at Jay, and when I saw him timing the ball, and kept looking and kept looking and I saw he got it. ... Thank God that the wind pulled it a little bit in, and Jay got it," Cueto said through translator Tomas Vera.

With the game still scoreless in the eighth, Brandon Phillips drew a walk to lead off the frame and moved to third on a Bruce single. Ramon Santiago then lifted a soft fly ball to shallow center, where Jon Jay charged and dropped it, allowing Phillips to score.

Bruce's defensive gem wasn't the only one on the afternoon behind Cueto. With a runner at third and two outs in the third, Matt Holliday hit a sharp ground ball headed past the bag at first base and down the right-field line, but Todd Frazier snared it on a full-extension dive and flipped to Cueto covering for the out.

Cueto also induced two ground balls that turned into double plays, one of which made a two-on, nobody out situation into a runner-on-third, two-out scenario before Frazier's great play ended the third.

Overall, Cueto went eight innings, allowing three hits and one walk while striking out seven to earn his 18th win, which ties him with the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw for the Major League lead. He has gone eight or more innings while allowing two earned runs or less 13 times this season, and improved to 10-2 with a 1.55 ERA in day games.

The All-Star right-hander said the classic pitching duel that developed between him and Lynn fueled him as the game wore on.

"What it does is that increases the intensity; every time he goes out there and throws a zero, I come back and I want to throw a zero," Cueto said. "So it's a competition between him and I every inning. And you know what? You keep doing it until somebody scores for you, and thank God they scored for me, and I won the game."

Cueto walked the first batter of the game, Matt Carpenter, and hit the next batter, Jay, to put two on with nobody out in the first. But he settled down thereafter, striking out Holliday and Adams before getting Jhonny Peralta to ground into the force at second.

Following an Adams single to lead off the fourth, Cueto retired the final 14 Cardinals hitters he faced in order.

"I don't know what happens, but every time in the first inning I get kind of goofy," Cueto said with a laugh. "Things happen, but thank God I solved that problem in that time and I came back and made my pitches where I wanted and got out of the inning."

Cueto gave way to Aroldis Chapman, who struck out two in the ninth and picked up his 33rd save of the season to preserve Cueto's first win against the Cardinals since May 14, 2011.

Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Reds honor 9/11 with special pregame ceremony

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Reds honor 9/11 with special pregame ceremony play video for Reds honor 9/11 with special pregame ceremony

CINCINNATI -- The Reds held a special pregame ceremony to remember the September 11th terrorist attacks before Thursday afternoon's series finale against the Cardinals at Great American Ball Park.

Reds players wore commemorative caps adorned with the American flag as the team celebrated Military Appreciation Day as well as Police & Fire Appreciation Day.

The USO unfurled a giant American flag in the outfield, with a world-record 115,405 signatures from all 50 states and seven different countries as part of the organization's "Every Moment Counts" campaign. The campaign is an initiative that encourages Americans to make special moments that honor soldiers and their families.

A Guinness World Records adjudicator presented the USO with a certificate for the new record, which shattered the former mark (set in 2012) for signatures on a flag by 82,132. The flag's dimensions are 80 feet by 120 feet, and it weighs more than 350 pounds. Cincinnati is the first stop on a three-city tour for the flag.

Other special guests on hand included Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell, who threw out a ceremonial first pitch, and Cincinnati firefighter John Winfrey, who sang the National Anthem.

Manny Randhawa is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Numbers show Reds aggressive running to home plate

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Numbers show Reds aggressive running to home plate play video for Numbers show Reds aggressive running to home plate

CINCINNATI -- Before the season began, first-year manager Bryan Price promised that the Reds would be more aggressive on the bases. The numbers have backed that up -- both positively and negatively.

The Reds lead the Majors in runners out at home plate in non-force plays with 27, according to Baseball-Reference.com. The league average is 16. Cincinnati also entered Thursday leading the National League with a .360 average with runners at third base and fewer than two outs, and was fourth in runs scored in that split.

Out No. 27 happened to the Reds during Wednesday's 4-2 win over the Cardinals when third-base coach Steve Smith waved Brayan Pena around to try and score from second base on a Brandon Phillips rolling single into left field. Chris Heisey scored from third base on the play but Pena was easily out on a one-hop throw from Matt Holliday.

Local baseball statistician Joel Luckhaupt reviewed the 27 plays and broke them down by the types of situation:

• Eleven outs came on contact plays, which are on ground balls to the infield. Price has a managerial rule that his players usually must run on contact from third base with one out.

"It's not an uncommon philosophy for any manager with one out. With no outs, it's less common, because you have a better chance to be conservative there and drive them in," Price said. "With one out, it's a common practice, in particular when you have guys like [Billy] Hamilton or [Chris] Heisey or [Jay] Bruce or [Todd] Frazier or [Zack] Cozart -- when you have guys who are at least average runners at third base.

"Sitting around waiting for guys, if you're hitting .220 as a team with runners in scoring position, what are you waiting for? What are you waiting for with one out and a runner at third base?"

The Reds entered Thursday batting .249 with runners in scoring position, which was ranked eighth in the NL. They are batting .239 RISP since the All-Star break.

• Four outs were on player decisions to try and score. One example was April 13 vs. the Rays. Tony Cingrani hit a grounder to shortstop and Devin Mesoraco was thrown out running on contact from third to home. Then, Cingrani drifted far from first base to draw a throw, but Cozart tried to score and was thrown out for the inning-ending double play.

• Two were questionable calls for Luckhaupt based on the video, including June 26 at San Francisco, when Hamilton tried tagging up and scoring on a popup to Giants second baseman Joe Panik and was thrown out. Hamilton later said it was his decision to go there. On April 25, Joey Votto was thrown out by right fielder Jason Heyward in a double play when he tagged up and went home on a Bruce flyout at Atlanta.

• Ten of the outs at home came on base hits into the outfield. Three of those were close plays, with two of the three subject to replay and upheld. Seven plays at the plate weren't close at all, including Pena's on Wednesday.

Price and Smith both confirmed the 10 runners out at home on coaching decisions.

"It's just trying to make the right decision," Price said. "We've had 10 guys thrown out trying to score where Smitty's been in charge of sending them, and I don't think that's a ridiculous number, by any means."

Smith has been a target of criticism from fans at times this season. Price backed up his coach.

"I don't listen to any of that stuff. [Previous third-base coach] Mark Berry talked about people in our ballpark getting on him a lot about decisions that he made," Price said. "A lot of those decisions, No. 1, are made by the manager; a lot of them are consistent baseball decisions that are made around the big leagues, and it doesn't matter if it's Dusty Baker or Bryan Price or if it's Bobby Cox or if it's any of these other guys."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

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Votto set to make road trip for first time since July

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Votto set to make road trip for first time since July play video for Votto set to make road trip for first time since July

CINCINNATI -- Friday may be the start of the final road trip of the 2014 season for the Reds, but it will be the first time injured first baseman Joey Votto has traveled with the club since July.

Votto went on the disabled list for the second time this season on July 8 with a distal strain of his left quadriceps. Reds manager Bryan Price considered it a good sign that Votto would be joining the team on the nine-game trip to Milwaukee, Chicago and St. Louis.

"He's been out taking ground balls and hitting off a tee," Price said Thursday. "If he's not with us, really in my opinion, we may as well just sign off on him not playing this year, if he doesn't go with us and continue to do baseball-related activities. That's the only way we can really evaluate him, if we see him and see what he's doing."

Price and the Reds are still hopeful that Votto could be activated before this season ends, but have not established a timetable.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

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{"event":["prospect" ] }

MLB.com Columnist

Bernie Pleskoff

Pleskoff: Lorenzen has power, versatility to be short reliever

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Pleskoff: Lorenzen has power, versatility to be short reliever play video for Pleskoff: Lorenzen has power, versatility to be short reliever

MLB.com Columnist

Bernie Pleskoff

The Cincinnati Reds have a very versatile power pitcher currently in development in 6-foot-3, 195-pound right-hander Michael Lorenzen. He has flown through the Reds' Minor League system, and it appears he could be on a very fast track.

Following Lorenzen's successful career as a baseball player at Fullerton Union (Calif.) High School, the Tampa Bay Rays selected him in the seventh round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. Instead of signing with the Rays at the time, he chose to attend Cal State Fullerton.

Lorenzen was a skilled two-way player in college. He played the outfield and was a member of the team's bullpen. Lorenzen closed games and established a school record by recording 35 saves. In essence, he was attractive to scouts both as a position player and pitcher.

Cincinnati selected Lorenzen with a Competitive Balance pick as the 38th player chosen overall in the 2013 Draft. The team has elected to use him exclusively as a pitcher, taking advantage of his strong arm and ability to consistently throw his fastball between 95-99 mph. Lorenzen also has a solid 81-83 mph curveball. Those are his primary pitches, although he is working on a changeup.

Interestingly, the Reds have used Lorenzen as a starting pitcher this year, as opposed to using his fastball/curveball combination out of the bullpen. In his first professional season, he was used mainly in relief.

Lorenzen spent that initial professional year pitching for four teams. He began with Cincinnati's Arizona League Rookie-level team, pitching one inning of one game. Lorenzen moved to the team's Class A Dayton affiliate in the Midwest League, where, pitching in relief only, he threw 8 1/3 innings in nine games. He struck out seven and walked two, establishing an ability to miss bats with good control and command of his primary two-pitch mix. Lorenzen concluded his stint at Dayton with an ERA of 0.00 and a 1.08 WHIP. He yielded seven hits.

Lorenzen then moved to Bakersfield in the Class A Advanced California League. That's usually a hitter-friendly league and environment. Not unexpectedly, the first hiccup of his professional career took place at Bakersfield, where he threw 5 2/3 innings, gave up six hits and walked five and had an ERA of 6.35. The sample size was small, but it was the first of Lorenzen's assignments that wasn't quite blemish-free.

Finally, Lorenzen was assigned to Double-A Pensacola to finish the season. His ERA fell to 4.50 in his final six innings of 2013. Lorenzen's composite totals for his first year as a full-time pitcher included an ERA of 3.00 and a WHIP of 1.57 in 21 innings. Of the 22 games in which he pitched, 21 were from the bullpen.

Lorenzen, the Reds' No. 4 prospect , spent this season back at Double-A Pensacola. The 22-year-old appeared exclusively as a starter, and the results were favorable. He struck out an average of six hitters per nine innings while walking a bit more than three per nine. Lorenzen yielded fewer hits than innings pitched. The net result was a 3.13 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP.

Lorenzen has been efficient and effective in making the transition from the outfield to the mound and from the bullpen to the rotation. However, he is still learning the nuances of being a starting pitcher.

My first look at Lorenzen came in the 2014 Double-A Southern League All Star Game. He was selected because of his 2.41 midseason ERA in 71 innings pitched over 13 starts. Lorenzen was the game's winner, as the South defeated the North, 6-4. He threw one inning, yielding two hits, no runs, a walk and one strikeout. Lorenzen flashed his electric fastball/curveball combination.

A good athlete with a strong and live arm, Lorenzen may not have enough depth in his repertoire to remain a starter. However, he certainly has the pitches to dominate in a short-relief role. That's where I feel Lorenzen best fits. He can get a big strikeout mid-inning or begin an inning and close out a game.

Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["prospect" ] }

Simon's all-around night lifts Reds past Cardinals

Righty deals seven strong frames, contributes pair of doubles

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Simon's all-around night lifts Reds past Cardinals play video for Simon's all-around night lifts Reds past Cardinals

CINCINNATI -- The two doubles and an RBI that starting pitcher Alfredo Simon collected on Wednesday vs. the Cardinals were merely bonuses. What the Reds and Simon both needed, and received, was a strong performance from the mound and a victory. That's what has been missing too often from his second half of this season.

Simon also gave his club seven strong innings and the Reds gave him offensive support for a 4-2 victory at Great American Ball Park.

"Look, [Mike] Leake is a good hitter. The rest of them we want to have as good bunters," Reds manager Bryan Price said of his starting pitchers, getting laughs.

It was only the second time in 11 second-half starts that both Simon and the Reds won a game that he started. While throwing 105 pitches, he allowed two earned runs and five hits with three walks and five strikeouts.

Things did not begin optimistically for Simon during the top of the first when he allowed a pair of runs after a two-out walk of Matt Holliday. Matt Adams followed with an RBI double and Oscar Taveras hit a RBI single.

"Every time I go out, I just try to fight to get the win," said Simon, who is 14-10 with a 3.48 ERA in 29 starts. "In the first inning, I just tried to keep fighting, keep fighting. Everything worked today. I got some run support today. I'm really happy I got the win. I'm proud of myself."

The Reds responded with a run in the bottom of the first on Todd Frazier's RBI single and then in the second inning with Ryan Ludwick's one-out solo homer to left field on a John Lackey fastball.

Cincinnati caught a big break in the third inning when Lackey was ejected by home-plate umpire Tom Hallion for disputing balls and strikes. St. Louis had to piece the rest of the game together with its bullpen.

For his part, Simon kept St. Louis off the scoreboard, giving up only three more singles. He got some nice defense behind him in the fifth with a runner on first and no outs when reliever Tyler Lyons' attempt to sacrifice bunt was turned for a double play by Devin Mesoraco with Brandon Phillips stretched nicely covering first base.

"There were some points in the game where you thought it could really get away," Price said. "[Simon was] a little erratic early but he rallied and did a super job. Of course, that double play -- 2-6-4 double play -- with Lyons bunting was big to keep them [from scoring]."

Simon, who hit a two-out double off a Lackey first pitch in the second inning, helped himself even more in the fourth inning with a two-out RBI double to right field off Lyons. Simon, who had designs on a triple, was thrown out at second base after rounding too far past the bag.

It made Simon the first Reds pitcher with two doubles in a game since Pete Schourek on Sept. 18, 1995, vs. the Expos.

"That's the first time I've had two doubles," Simon said. "The second one, I tried to get a triple and they got me. It scored a run. I'm happy with myself."

Another two-out RBI hit, a roller into left field by Phillips in the fifth inning, scored Chris Heisey for a two-run lead. In a moment seen repeatedly this season, third-base coach Steve Smith waved around Brayan Pena to try and score from second base. Holliday's one-hop throw to the plate got Pena in plenty of time.

After Simon exited, Sam LeCure worked the eighth inning but hit Jon Jay in the leg with a 1-2 pitch before Holliday singled to put the tying run on first base. Lefty Ryan Dennick kept the mistake from haunting by getting Adams to fly out to left field.

Aroldis Chapman pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts for his 32nd save. It was the third time in the past month that Cincinnati enjoyed back-to-back wins and the first time since Aug. 27-28 vs. the Cubs. The Reds have a chance to win a rare series from the Cardinals with a third-straight win on Thursday.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

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{"event":["prospect" ] }

Billings captures Pioneer League championship

Mustangs sweep Owlz in best-of-three series

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Billings captures Pioneer League championship play video for Billings captures Pioneer League championship

Rookie-level Billings was the best team in the Pioneer League in the second half of the season and that success carried over into the playoffs. The Mustangs swept their semifinal series and, Thursday, they completed a sweep in the finals.

In Game 2 of the best-of-three series, Billings defeated the Owlz at Orem, 6-5. It was Billings' first Pioneer League championship since 2003.

The Mustangs started the game well, scoring four runs in the second against right-hander Christopher Ellis, the Angels' No. 3 prospect. Billings added two more in the third against Orem's bullpen to take a 6-0 lead.

But the Owlz didn't go away quietly and cut the deficit to one run in the seventh inning. They threatened in both the eighth and ninth, but left the tying run on third in both innings. The game ended when Juan Moreno lined out to third baseman Taylor Sparks with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.

Billings was led by first baseman Kevin Franklin, the Reds' second-round pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. The 19-year-old went 2-for-5 with a home run and a double. He scored twice and drove in two runs. In four playoff games, he hit .438/.471/.750 and scored four runs.

Center fielder Brian O'Grady went 2-for-4 with a run, a walk and two RBIs. Catcher Garrett Boulware added two hits and two runs.

Right-hander Wyatt Strahan, the Reds' third-round pick in June's Draft, started the game for Billings. He allowed two runs on three hits and five walks in 3 2/3 innings. Right-hander Tejay Antone, the club's fifth-round pick this year, relieved him in the fourth and picked up the win. He struck out one batter and allowed two runs on four hits in two innings.

During the regular season, Billings went 41-35 and won the North Division in the second half. It beat Great Falls in their best-of-three semifinal to reach this week's championship series.

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"event":["prospect" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ] ,"content":["transactions" ] }

Reds get two Brewers pitchers from Broxton trade

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Reds get two Brewers pitchers from Broxton trade play video for Reds get two Brewers pitchers from Broxton trade

CINCINNATI -- The Reds acquired a pair of Minor League pitchers from the Brewers on Wednesday to complete their Aug. 31 trade of reliever Jonathan Broxton.

Cincinnati received right-handers Kevin Shackelford and Barrett Astin in the deal.

Shackelford, 25, split the 2014 season with Class A Brevard and Double-A Huntsville. After he had a 0.87 ERA in 12 games at Brevard, he was 2-4 with a 4.86 ERA in 40 relief appearances.

Once a catcher for Marshall University, Shackelford was a 21st round Draft pick of Milwaukee in 2010 and was promptly converted to a pitcher.

In 27 games -- including 18 starts -- for Class A Wisconsin, Astin was 8-7 with a 4.96 ERA and four saves. Over 121 2/3 innings, he allowed 132 hits, 36 walks and 12 home runs while striking out 81 batters.

Astin, 22, was a third-round Draft pick in 2013 out of the University of Arkansas.

Neither Shackelford, nor Astin, were ranked among the Brewers' top 20 prospects by MLB.com.

Milwaukee traded to get late-inning bullpen help but has faded down the stretch. The Reds were seeking some payroll relief. Broxton is owed $9 million for the 2015 season and had a $9 million club option for 2016 with a $1 million buyout. A clause in his contract stipulated that his option switched to a mutual option once traded with an additional $1 million added to the buyout.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

{"event":["prospect" ] ,"content":["transactions" ] }
{"event":["prospect" ] ,"content":["transactions" ] }

Reds pile on runs to back Leake's quality outing

Mesoraco leads way with three RBIs as Cincinnati evens series

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Reds pile on runs to back Leake's quality outing play video for Reds pile on runs to back Leake's quality outing

CINCINNATI -- The Reds are at the point in their season where they have to find whatever satisfaction can be scraped from the micro rather than the macro. There is little chance of them getting back into contention, but Tuesday's 9-5 victory over the Cardinals was a relief from the recent gloom and doom of losing.

It also meant the Reds won't be eliminated from the National League Central race -- at least not by first-place St. Louis during this four-game series. Fourth-place Cincinnati (68-77), while trailing the Cardinals by 12 games, held its elimination number at six with two games left in the series.

"Maybe at this point, we're not in the best position, but we can wreck some other people's chances." said Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco, who was 2-for-3 with a home run, three RBIs and three runs scored. "I think as a competitor, it's not just as fulfilling but it's a very fulfilling thing that you can go out and beat the teams that are competing for the playoffs and the teams that are at the top of the division. We need to go out there and keep doing that."

Even with their most runs scored since a 10-9 loss to the Rockies on Aug. 17, it wasn't a pretty win for the Reds, who allowed 14 hits while getting 12 of their own. However, the club came in the losers of six of their last seven games and eight of the previous 10.

It started smoother as starter Mike Leake pitched six-plus innings and gave up three earned runs and eight hits with no walks and six strikeouts. He exited with a 7-1 lead after giving up a leadoff double and a single to begin the seventh.

Now 11-11 with a 3.62 ERA in 30 starts, Leake's 197 1/3 innings for the season broke his career high set last season.

Mesoraco's two-run homer to left field off Michael Wacha with two outs in the bottom of the first inning gave the Reds a 2-0 lead. It was Mesoraco's 23rd homer of the season and his 22nd as a catcher -- the most for a Red at that position since Johnny Bench hit 23 homers in 1980. Since ending a 1-for-32 skid, Mesoraco is 12-for-34 (.353) with three homers and 10 RBIs.

"It was the first time I've ever faced Wacha, I believe. I wasn't quite sure what to expect because it was the first time, so I wanted to see a couple of pitches," Mesoraco said. "At 3-2 there, he kind of left a curveball there in the middle part of the plate."

A four-run Reds fifth inning gave Leake what would be much-needed breathing room as eight batters came to the plate. Mesoraco hit an RBI double that scored Brayan Pena to end the night for Wacha, who was on a 70-pitch limit. Brandon Phillips hit a two-run double off the Cardinals' Jason Motte, and Zack Cozart's RBI single brought Phillips home for a six-run lead.

St. Louis sent nine to the plate in its three-run seventh that tightened the game. Jumbo Diaz replaced Leake and allowed both inherited runners to score, along with one of his own with a bases-loaded, two-out walk. Pena's diving catch near first base to rob A.J. Pierzynski saved the Reds from a potentially disastrous inning.

"The good thing was we stayed resilient. We needed to," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "If that ball Pierzynski hit ends up getting down the line, it's a backbreaker. Pena came up big. You don't want to say it was a game saver, but the momentum was starting to shift."

Despite his team creeping closer, Cardinals manager Mike Matheny seemed to be offering victory to the Reds. Matheny used six relievers and 17 position players in the game, as he lifted most of his regulars during the late innings.

The Cardinals kept coming in the ninth against J.J. Hoover, who allowed two hits and an unearned run. Aroldis Chapman was needed to get the final out, which gave him his 31st save.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

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