Yet, conventional wisdom went out the window as Cincinnati claimed a 5-3 victory over the Angels in an unconventional manner. The Reds' final four runs scored via a fielder's choice, a suicide squeeze bunt, a sacrifice fly and an error.
The tie-breaking run scored in the seventh when Ken Griffey Jr. hit a sac fly to right field.
"We're not really thinking about being in last place, or whatever," said second baseman Brandon Phillips, who had two hits. "We're just going out there and having fun, proving everybody wrong. We're just worrying about ourselves instead of what other people think."
The Reds (26-39) have won four of their last five games, with three of them coming against a first-place American League team. They took two of three from the Indians over the weekend.
Angels starter Kelvim Escobar struck out a career-high 14 batters, including eight of the first 11 Reds, but found his pitch count bloated to 76 through four innings. Escobar was out of the game after the sixth.
"Those guys have a great club," Reds manager Jerry Narron said of the 40-25 Angels. "They're one of the better teams in baseball -- very solid from top to bottom. They've got great pitching, and you saw that from Escobar, coming out the way he did, striking out eight in the first three innings. Maybe we tired him out a bit."
Reliever Darren Oliver had the other two strikeouts for Los Angeles. The 16 K's tied for the second-most in Reds history for a nine-inning game.
Cincinnati trailed, 2-0, before it scored three runs and took the lead in the fourth inning. After Josh Hamilton's hard-hit one-out RBI double off Escobar scored Griffey, small ball took over.
When Alex Gonzalez grounded into a fielder's choice play at shortstop, Orlando Cabrera's throw to third base easily beat Hamilton. But Hamilton, niftily moved his arm away from the tag while sliding headfirst. Adam Dunn scored from third base on the play.
The next batter, David Ross, dropped a perfect suicide squeeze to the pitcher and scored Hamilton. Ross couldn't remember how many suicide squeezes he's executed over his career.
"It'd be a lot more if I would start hitting," said Ross, struggling with a .184 average this season. "I pride myself on trying to do the little things to help the team out. When you're hitting in front of the pitcher, it's tough to know what they're going to throw you."
A chance to blow the game open for the Reds was thwarted in the fifth. The Reds had runners on second and third with no outs before the heart of the lineup went down in order amid boos from 23,153 fans at Great American Ball Park.
"I just swung at stupid stuff the first time," said Griffey, who struck out for the first out in the fifth. In the seventh, Griffey got it done with his sac fly against reliever Dustin Moseley (4-1).
An insurance run crossed in the Reds' eighth. On what should have been a routine groundout, Norris Hopper reached on a two-out fielding error by second baseman Erick Aybar. The mistake allowed Edwin Encarnacion to cross the plate.
"We hadn't had that all year," said closer David Weathers. "We say this a lot, you guys have seen a lot of games where things don't go our way, and tonight a couple things went our way. And you have to have that over the course of a season to have some success."
Reds starter Bronson Arroyo worked a six-inning no-decision with three earned runs and nine hits allowed. Arroyo, who gave up homers to Casey Kotchman and Gary Matthews Jr., walked three and struck out five, but extended his winless streak to seven starts.
It was a great night for the Reds bullpen. Jon Coutlangus (3-1) threw a perfect seventh inning for the win. After Gary Majewski and Mike Stanton, Weathers handled the final 1 1/3 innings for his 13th save.
"Any time we've had our bullpen doing their jobs it's been a lot easier," Narron said. "The big thing is the first guy out of the bullpen. If he does his job, then it matches everything up."
The ninth included a spectacular catch from Phillips, who robbed Vladimir Guerrero by snaring a high line drive with a leap and fully extended glove.
"I iced his shoulder afterwards," joked Weathers. "I thought he pulled it off."