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Reds overcome early deficit to take set

Reds overcome early deficit

MILWAUKEE -- Far from being road warriors the past couple of seasons, the Reds often played more like accidental tourists in their gray uniforms.

A six-game road trip to play the Cubs and Brewers proved to be the first break the Reds' brutal 2007 road schedule had allowed. Sure, they were playing the National League Central's top two teams. But after five straight 10-day trips, most of them over multiple time zones, this one seemed like an overnight getaway.

And they caught a slumping Brewers team for their first trip to Milwaukee this season.

With a 7-6 come-from-behind win on Sunday at Miller Park, the Reds took two of three in the series from the Brewers. By going 4-2 over the last six games, it marked the first winning road trip for Cincinnati since June 19-26, 2006.

Cincinnati trailed by a 5-0 score after three innings and battled back. The Reds were 0-11-2 over the previous 13 road trips.

"We're all going home happy," said interim manager Pete Mackanin, whose club batted .339 (75-for-221) on the trip. "I couldn't have predicted the [game's] outcome but I was sure happy with it."

"It's a tough road trip and we won four out of six," said catcher Javier Valentin, who provided the game-winning, two-run double as a pinch-hitter in the eighth. "Nobody expected to do that with these two teams, the Cubs and Milwaukee."

Valentin, the club's top pinch-hitter who has taken on regular catching duties since David Ross went down with a concussion last week, was given a rest from the starting lineup Sunday. He spent the whole game in the bullpen warming up pitchers.

Milwaukee reliever Scott Linebrink (4-4) had a 6-5 lead in the eighth when he issued a one-out walk to Adam Dunn and back-to-back singles to Jeff Conine and Edwin Encarnacion to load the bases.

The phone rang to the Reds bullpen in the eighth, but it wasn't for a pitcher. Valentin was summoned to pinch-hit and had to run to the dugout from right field, grab a bat and enter for rookie Ryan Jorgensen.

What was really surprising was that the Brewers' bullpen door remained closed. Valentin, a switch-hitter that's better from the left side, faced the right-handed Linebrink. Meanwhile, submarine throwing lefty Brian Shouse was warmed up and waiting.

"As I was running to the dugout, I decided to take my time because I thought they would bring in a lefty," Valentin said.

Valentin worked a full count before hitting a laser to left-center field that bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double that scored Dunn and Conine.

"It was difficult," Valentin said. "You don't have a chance to get loose or ready. That's tough. My only swing today was on the first pitch."

Valentin is 3-for-13 (.231) this season vs. lefties and was 42-for-144 (.292) vs. right-handers. Yet this was the matchup Brewers manager Ned Yost wanted.

"I wanted to face Valentin from the left side," Yost said. "If he got Valentin out, I was going to bring in Shousy to face a lefty [pinch-hitter Ken Griffey Jr.]. I liked Linebrink right there in that situation."

With Reds starter Aaron Harang laboring early, late-inning drama seemed unlikely.

Harang surrendered four home runs, including three in the first three innings, and was in a 5-0 hole. Ryan Braun led off the second with a home run to left field. Bill Hall crushed a two-run homer to left field later in the inning.

At one point in the second inning, Mackanin and head trainer Mark Mann came out to the mound to see if anything was wrong with Harang. The right-handed ace sent them back saying he wasn't injured.

"It was one of those days when I went out there and I couldn't get into a rhythm," Harang said. "Everything felt kind of stiff. It was hard to let it go."

In the third inning with one out, Prince Fielder lifted a two-run homer to right field.

"After the Fielder home run, it looked like he got ticked off and said, 'You know what? I'm going after this and not worrying about it,'" Mackanin said. "He started pitching better."

After Fielder's long ball, Harang struck out four in a row and retired 11 of the next 13. He allowed six earned runs and nine hits over 6 2/3 innings without a walk and eight strikeouts.

"I figured I would just let it go and see what happens after that," said Harang, who has allowed seven homers in his last two starts. "Obviously, it worked."

Against Brewers lefty Chris Capuano, Dunn hit a two-run homer to center field in the fourth. In the sixth, Brandon Phillips also launched a two-run homer to center. Dunn was hit by a pitch and used a pair of wild pitches to advance to third base and scored the tying run on Conine's sacrifice fly.

J.J. Hardy's leadoff homer in the seventh against Harang put Milwaukee up, 6-5. Reliever Bill Bray (2-0) threw all of one pitch in the inning and got Fielder to fly out for the victory.

After Valentin provided the go-ahead runs, reliever Jared Burton came through with a scoreless eighth. Closer David Weathers put two runners on in the ninth but held up the win for his 25th save. The Brewers have lost six of seven and 15 of their last 21.

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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