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Phillips' slam wins Mackanin's debut

Phillips' slam wins Mackanin's debut

CINCINNATI -- It's funny. Pete Mackanin pushed almost the same buttons predecessor Jerry Narron would have.

The big exception this time was Mackanin didn't have to keep pushing the "eject" button on his relievers several times in the late innings. After Brandon Phillips hit a sixth-inning grand slam, three relievers threw zeros the rest of the way in Tuesday's 7-3 Reds win over the Giants.

Jon Coutlangus, Todd Coffey and David Weathers got it done and preserved starter Aaron Harang's victory.

"This is an easy game when your relief pitchers come in and do what they're supposed to do," said Mackanin, who won in his debut as Cincinnati's interim manager. "Get a lead and hold them.

"It was nice to have a little bit of a cushion. I know that hasn't worked out well in the past, but we're going to keep using these guys. Hopefully, they'll rise to the occasion, show the improvement, make the pitches and we'll win a lot of games like this."

It was a 3-3 game with two outs in the sixth when Ryan Freel beat out a grounder to shortstop that loaded the bases against Giants reliever Kevin Correia (1-4). Next up was Phillips, who launched a 1-0 pitch into the right-center-field seats for his second career grand slam.

"It don't matter who the manager was. It just feels good to get a win, you know?" Phillips said. "We're glad that we did get a win for him tonight. Hopefully, a couple things can happen for the rest of the year, starting with the rest of the homestand."

Harang (9-2) pitched six innings and allowed three earned runs and four hits with six walks and four strikeouts. In the top of the first, Harang left an 0-2 pitch over the plate that Barry Bonds hit over the right-field fence for career home run No. 751.

It was an overall labored effort for Harang, and the right-hander was out of gas after throwing 109 pitches.

"I was just missing my spots a lot. I wasn't as sharp as I have been," Harang said. "I just went out there and tried to battle through it. When you're not as sharp, and you're really having to battle to make pitches to get guys out to keep us in the game, it takes a lot more out of you."

"Good pitchers figure out a way to get it done. He did," Mackanin said.

Until Phillips' fifth-inning single, Giants starter Barry Zito held Cincinnati hitless for 4 2/3 innings but lost much of his command during a 44-pitch bottom of the fourth. Zito coughed up five walks in the inning, including free passes to both Edwin Encarnacion and Alex Gonzalez with the bases loaded that made it a 2-2 game.

The beleaguered Reds bullpen entered 9-18 this season and heavily contributed to 28 overall losses after leading. Coutlangus is a rookie lefty who's had control issues and seven walks issued to first batters this season. But he induced two flyouts in the seventh -- including one to second batter Bonds. Ryan Klesko was hit by a pitch, and Mackanin turned to Coffey.

Having let half his inherited runners score this season coming in, Coffey picked up an inning-ending groundout. Entering the night, the Reds have been outscored 63-36 in the eighth inning. But after Pedro Feliz led off the eighth by reaching on an error, Coffey shut it down. Omar Vizquel grounded into a double play and pinch-hitter Mark Sweeney flied out.

"When you're a bullpen guy, you have to get in there and just get outs," Coffey said. "That's all that matters. It doesn't matter who put you in or what situation you're put in, get outs."

"Coffey did a real good job," Mackanin said. "He kept the ball down and did what he had to do. Coutlangus did a good job. It was good to see that. That's what we need to do in order for us to win."

Weathers, the most consistent reliever on the staff, gave up a leadoff single and retired the rest of the side in order to finish it in the ninth. Bonds made the final out with a flyout to foul territory in left field.

And just like that, Mackanin is 1-0 in Cincinnati. He was named to the job Sunday when Narron was dismissed and formally introduced before Tuesday's game. The Reds had a Major League-worst 31-51 record under Narron this season, and the bullpen was identified as a primary reason for his undoing.

Mackanin held a clubhouse meeting with the players after batting practice.

"In a nutshell, I told them we were at a fork in the road," Mackanin said. "'You've got two choices. You either make the choice that we're the team with this record. Or you make the choice that we're a better team than this. It's up to you individually.' I choose to believe that we're the better team. We should have a better record. I'm making that choice right now."

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

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