Home runs give Livingston first win

Home runs give Livingston first win

DENVER -- The Reds arrived in the Mile High City hoping for a lift.

A 9-21 record in May could still turn out to be a season killer, but Friday's 4-2 win over the Rockies, their fourth victory in the last five games, showed the Reds wanted to prevent a mostly miserable May from escalating to a June swoon.

"It's going to turn around," said right fielder Ken Griffey Jr., who hit career home run No. 575 in the first inning. "You just have to keep playing. Everybody on this team didn't give up and that's the important thing."

Reds manager Jerry Narron presumed right when he gave rookie lefty Bobby Livingston a shot to start in the rotation's fifth spot. Livingston (1-0) largely squelched Colorado for 6 2/3 innings and allowed one unearned run on seven hits with one walk.

It was Livingston's first Major League win in five appearances, and also his first victory at any level this season. He had a no-decision in his first start for the Reds May 13 at Los Angeles, and was 0-3 in seven starts at Triple-A Louisville.

"Refreshing, because I haven't had a win all year," Livingston said. "It's kind of weird for me. With the games I pitch, I usually have a decent amount before the half comes. But I had to put in a lot of hard work for just the one win. I'll take them when I can get them."

Livingston did not strike anyone out, but that's not his usual anyway. The 24-year-old used a mix of sinkers, sliders and changeups, and frequently changed location. Even when Colorado got hits against Livingston, none went for extra bases.

"He just spotted everything," said Rockies first baseman Todd Helton, who had two hits. "He didn't throw hard. He kind of was crafty. He did a good job."

Cincinnati's lineup spotted its starter an early 4-0 lead. Griffey hit a two-out solo home run to right field in the first inning, his 12th of the season. Brandon Phillips led off the three-run Reds fourth with a single and stole second base. With one out, Alex Gonzalez hit a high drive that kept drifting over fence near the left-field corner for a two-run homer.

Edwin Encarnacion followed with a double down the left-field line and scored on Livingston's first big-league hit, an RBI single to right field, that provided a four-run lead.

"I was more excited about the hit than the W," Livingston said. The Reds were able to retrieve and save the hit ball. It was in the pitcher's locker after the game.

The Reds called Livingston up on Monday to be an emergency long reliever after they used up their bullpen last weekend. He wasn't used this week, which made his last outing nine days ago for Louisville.

Nine days? No problem. Pitching in hitter-happy Coors Field? No problem.

"I try to take everything in stride," Livingston said. "I don't try to get too worked up about stuff. That way I can have that controlled adrenaline and big-league control out there and not be all whacked out. I relaxed, went out there composed and threw a lot of strikes."

Narron decided to remove Livingston after he allowed a two-out single with his 107th pitch in the Rockies' seventh.

"He's been in Triple-A and I don't even know if he's gone 95 pitches," Narron said. "It seems like everybody in Triple-A is on a 90 pitch limit. He said he was a little stiff. We were fortunate to get outs from him in the seventh. We just didn't want to push it."

Livingston said he threw 101 pitches in his previous start. The decision to go to Brad Salmon nearly blew up on Narron, when the right-handed reliever walked back-to-back hitters -- including first batter Troy Tulowitzki on four pitches.

Jon Coutlangus entered, and induced a slow grounder to the shortstop. Instead of recording the inning-ending out, Gonzalez bobbled the ball before he could make a throw. The error allowed Willy Taveras to score Colorado's first run.

With closer David Weathers called with two outs and two on in the eighth, Taveras skied a fly to right field. Griffey took a bad angle and instead of running in, backed up on the ball. It dropped in for a one bounce RBI single that scored Garrett Atkins.

"Right in the lights," Griffey said.

A better defensive play came in the ninth inning. Late center-field replacement Dewayne Wise, made a lengthy sprint and catch on leadoff hitter Ryan Spilbaugh's drive to the warning track.

"It was nice to see somebody run a ball down," Narron said in an apparent dig at Griffey's earlier effort.

Weathers pitched 1 1/3 innings for his 11th save and preserved Livingston's win. A fifth starter isn't needed again until next Saturday vs. Cleveland and it was still up in the air if Livingston would get another chance.

"He did a great job," Narron said. "So we'll talk about it and see."

There aren't many other candidates. Fellow lefty Phil Dumatrait has turned in three straight rough outings at Louisville. Top right-handed prospect Homer Bailey has dominated one level below but is being brought along slowly with no promotion looking imminent.

"I would definitely like another opportunity," Livingston said. "I'm glad they had enough faith in me to give me this opportunity."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.