CINCINNATI -- As scribes gathered in the Reds' clubhouse around Jerry Hairston Jr.'s locker while he was in the shower, teammate Javier Valentin smiled as he walked through. "Our new leadoff hitter," Valentin said. Hairston's recent offensive groove for Triple-A Louisville didn't get lost on his way up Interstate 71. In his first start for the Reds on Tuesday, Hairston was instant offense in an 8-1 win over the Dodgers. He went 4-for-5 with three RBIs while Cincinnati supported Edinson Volquez's strong seven-inning start with a season-high 15 hits.
"He was hot at Triple-A. Most of the time when you're hot one place, you'll be hot everywhere," said manager Dusty Baker, whose club earned a split of the two-game series after it took a 9-3 pounding the previous night. Hairston, 31, was the International League's top hitter with a .421 average after he didn't make the Reds out of Spring Training. With leadoff man Corey Patterson mired in an 0-for-22 slump and Ryan Freel's history of being better against right-handers, Baker put Hairston in the lineup's top spot and in center field. Coming in, Hairston was a career .247 hitter in the leadoff spot with 14 homers and a .321 on-base percentage. "I'm definitely not a power hitter, so my job is to get on base and make stuff happen," Hairston said. "I have been in the past. It's what I try to do whether I'm leading off, batting second or hitting eighth." The Reds came in with a .216 team batting average vs. left-handed pitchers. Hairston was called up on Monday partially to improve the club's right-handed presence against lefties. He came through against Dodgers southpaw Hong-Chih Kuo, while also recovering from some early mistakes. In the first inning after a leadoff single, Hairston was stealing as Jeff Keppinger lined out to center field, and couldn't get back to first base in time as Los Angeles turned the double play. "I kind of picked it up late," Hairston said. "[Matt] Kemp made a great throw. It happens. I tried to be aggressive and sometimes it doesn't work out." In the third inning, Hairston broke in and couldn't track down Rafael Furcal's RBI ground-rule double over his head. After that, the Reds scored eight unanswered runs. Opponents have scored first the last seven games while Cincinnati (9-12) has struggled. "It was good to have a lead for a change," Baker said. "It was kind of a reverse game from last night. They beat us to death last night. We beat them up pretty good tonight." In the third, after Hairston's two-out double put runners on second and third, Keppinger's liner off of Kuo's body scored the tying run. A four-run fourth put the Reds ahead. With one out, Adam Dunn hit his third home run of the season -- a solo shot the opposite way into the left-field seats. Edwin Encarnacion followed with a double, which extended his career-best hitting streak to 12 games, and scored on Paul Bako's single. After a perfect sacrifice bunt by Volquez put two runners in scoring position, Hairston drove them both in with a single lined to center field. Entering the night, the Reds were hitting .245 as a team. "We're going to hit," said Dunn, who is batting .217 after his 2-for-4 game. "That's the last thing I'm worried about -- us hitting. I just hope we can start soon, so we don't put ourselves into too big of a hole. Tonight was good for us and hopefully continues." The offense seems to come out of hibernation every five days for Volquez, who has gotten a total of 25 runs in support over his four starts. The 24-year-old right-hander kept Los Angeles at bay with one earned run and three hits and three walks allowed and seven strikeouts. He also evaded trouble by inducing two of the Dodgers' three double plays. The seven innings for Volquez was a season high and tied a career high. He is 3-0 with a 1.21 ERA this season. He threw 105 pitches vs. Los Angeles compared to the 112 he threw over five innings in his previous start at Chicago on Thursday. "Volquez threw a great ballgame," Baker said. "We still want to minimize some of those pitches so he can go a little bit deeper in the game. We'll take seven innings. He's getting better actually each time out. That's what you want to see, improvement. He's improving while he's winning." "The one thing I was looking for was to throw more than five innings," Volquez said. A late substitution, Patterson snapped his slump with a one-out triple in the eighth inning. Who drove him in? It was Hairston, of course, with an RBI single to right field. Hairston was unemployed well into Spring Training after he batted .189 last season for the Rangers while batting a back injury. "Probably the best thing for me was to go down to Louisville and get some ABs and really test out the back a little bit," Hairston said. "It felt great and it attributes to the confidence too."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.