PITTSBURGH -- Alternative fuels are en vogue these days, as Americans look for new sources of energy. Meanwhile, a slumping Reds team that has had to rely on Adam Dunn's power for eight years needed to find other ways to get runs. In a 5-1 win over the Pirates that snapped the Reds' season-high six-game losing streak, the runs came via home runs by Brandon Phillips and Javier Valentin. Two more RBIs came from a struggling offensive player, Corey Patterson. Edinson Volquez pitched a strong 6 1/3 innings to nab his 14th victory. Patterson entered the game batting .189. Valentin came in with one homer for the season. The game also featured the first Major League hits for rookies Chris Dickerson and Adam Rosales.
Talk about alternative sources. "You have to do what you have to do," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We're more of a speed and defense and hopefully, contact team now." The Reds were 1-9 over their previous 10 games after dealing another key lineup presence, Ken Griffey Jr. Dunn was traded on Monday to the Diamondbacks for three players. "We need to keep pushing," Valentin said. "I know what's happened last night [with Dunn's trade], but we need to continue to play hard and don't think about anything. This is business. That thing can happen to anybody. Hopefully this win will wake everybody up. We can start a nice winning streak and get confidence." For the first time since Aug. 6 against Milwaukee, the Reds scored in the first inning and took the early lead. Unlike the previous time, they held it. The runs came against Pirates starter Jeff Karstens (2-1), who came in with 15 shutout innings over his first two starts for the Pirates. Following rookie Chris Dickerson's leadoff walk and a stolen base that had him reaching third base on a throwing error, Brandon Phillips hit his 18th homer of the season -- a two-run shot to left field for a 2-0 Reds lead. "He had been outstanding," Baker said of Karstens. "I'm looking at the line scores from his past games. Brandon got us on the board. That's big when a guy has been dealing like that. It's the first time we've had a first inning lead in a long, long time. Boy that was big to get two runs right quick." Valentin's solo homer to center field in the fourth made it a three-run game. That was plenty of breathing room for Volquez (14-5), who gave up one earned run and five hits with three walks and five strikeouts. "Edinson threw a great game," Baker said. "That's where it starts. He gave us all we needed." Given two more days of rest than usual, Volquez was in need of a decent outing. He came in winless in three of his last four starts and was 3-3 with a 5.65 ERA over his last eight outings. Volquez didn't believe the rest benefited him. He felt better in the games he wasn't winning. "Any time I take too many days off, I feel like I lose my power a little bit," Volquez said. "I started keeping the ball down and making good pitches." In the bottom of the fourth, Andy LaRoche hit a one-out double to center field that scored Doug Mientkiewicz from second base for Pittsburgh's only run. The Reds tacked on a run in the sixth after Phillips reached on LaRoche's fielding error at third base. With two outs, Phillips scored on Corey Patterson's RBI single to right field. Patterson added an RBI double off Tyler Yates in the eighth. Still, the game got tight in the Pirates' seventh. Volquez gave up a one-out walk and exited after notching a strikeout. Bill Bray gave up a double to Nate McLouth and Mike Lincoln walked Luis Rivas to load the bases. Mientkiewicz smoked a sharp grounder to first base, where Valentin saved the win for Volquez with a diving stop towards the line. Valentin, who also made a nice play earlier in the game tossed to Lincoln at first to notch the rally-killing out. Whew. "It got a little hairy there in the seventh," Baker said. "Thanks to Javy, he made a great play down there." Valentin has spent most of his career as a backup catcher, but has played first base a lot. Was that the best fielding play of his career? "In the big leagues, yeah," he responded. "The way we're playing, I will have to do anything I can to stop that ball. If it's something close, I'm going to dive. I'm not going to let that ball pass."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.