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As Stubbs gets break, Heisey has big game

As Stubbs gets break, Heisey has big game

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As Stubbs gets break, Heisey has big game
CINCINNATI -- The fact that Chris Heisey started the second half in center field Friday for the Reds and not Drew Stubbs did not mean there was a shakeup. Manager Dusty Baker made that clear enough.

"Stubbs is still my center fielder because we need his defense and speed out there," Baker said.

But Heisey turned in a dazzling performance at the plate and in the field before Brandon Phillips' dramatic walk-off, two-run home run that gave the Reds a 6-5, come-from-behind win over the Cardinals.

Heisey started and led off, in part because he was previously 1-for-3 with a homer vs. Cardinals starter Jake Westbrook. Stubbs was 0-for-4. And in left field, Fred Lewis was 2-for-6. Heisey promptly made his presence felt in the top of the first inning by robbing Albert Pujols of a home run with a leaping catch at the wall to end the frame.

"When I caught it, I didn't think it was going to go out," Heisey said. "They said it was going to go out by a foot or two. Thank goodness they have short walls to make it look good."

But Heisey wasn't close to being done.

In the bottom of the first, Heisey sent a 3-2 pitch into the left-field seats for his third leadoff homer of the season and his career. It was a repeat of Heisey's previous meeting vs. Westbrook when he also hit a leadoff homer on July 6 at St. Louis.

Heisey then gave the Reds a 2-0 lead with his 12th homer in the fifth inning, also to left field and also on a 3-2 pitch. It was the second time this season, and in his career, that he had a multi-homer game. Heisey homered three times against the Yankees on June 22.

Stubbs, meanwhile, had gone into the All-Star break batting .250 with 11 home runs, 32 RBIs and 23 steals. But he was batting .206 (7-for-34) with 11 strikeouts and no RBIs in 10 July games and was moved out of the leadoff spot. His 122 strikeouts overall going into the day led the Majors. He struck out as a pinch-hitter Friday, but also walked and scored a run.

To snap out of his funk, Stubbs is using history as encouragement. He struggled mightily for much of the first half last season before hitting .307 with nine homers over his final two months to finish the season with 22 homers, 77 RBIs and 30 steals.

"It could be a similar parallel to last year," Stubbs said. "That's what I'm looking for again this year. Knowing you've done it before and seeing the success you can have late in the year, a lot of times that's the point where a lot of guys start to get fatigued and their performance wanes a little bit. I feel like I had good conditioning last year and was in a position to play well. I patterned what I did to prepare for this year off of last year."

Stubbs used most of his All-Star break relaxing at home in Austin, Texas, and felt the time was rejuvenating.

"I didn't go into the break banged up or anything," Stubbs said. "It's getting to that point in the season where you start to wear down with the schedule and number of games under your belt. To have four days off should give a shot in the arm to everyone."

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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