Reds win as Owings scores crucial run

Owings scores decisive run

CINCINNATI -- An injury and a sudden blast of the flu left the Reds shorthanded against the Brewers on Thursday, but it did not matter. They had Micah Owings the pitcher and Micah Owings the hitter, too.

And when the evening was over, the Reds also had Owings as the 6-5 winner, with his own RBI triple in the fourth inning accounting for the go-ahead run. Following a 15-3 blowout loss the previous night, Cincinnati (15-13) earned a split of the two-game series with Milwaukee before the first-place Cardinals arrive in town.

Owings (2-3) pitched six innings for the victory and looked better than his line indicated. He allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits with one walk and four strikeouts.

"Micah gave us all he had," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We tried to stick with him as long as we could. The bullpen was upside down. Our lineup was a little upside down, too, but the guys came through. All the guys that played contributed. It was a team game, big time."

The Reds' roster was essentially at 24 players already since Alex Gonzalez was unavailable with a strained oblique. The head count dropped to 22 when lineup mainstays Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips were scratched hours apart because of the flu. Add in Edwin Encarnacion being on the disabled list, and the entire regular infield was absent.

Two outfielders, Darnell McDonald and Chris Dickerson, accounted for Baker's bench.

"It was a big win for us, because it shows us we can win no matter who we put out there," Baker said. "You'd rather have the big bats out there, but if not, you have to win with what you have. The guys came through. It was especially nice after the drubbing we got last night."

The recalibrated lineup picked up the slack. Not surprisingly, Jay Bruce extended his team lead by hitting his eighth homer of the season. Bruce made it 1-0 when he went deep to right field off Braden Looper (2-2) in the first inning. The surprise came in the third when Willy Taveras connected for the eighth homer of his career.

Leading off the third, Taveras hit a 1-1 pitch well into the left-field seats for his first homer with the Reds. Laynce Nix's sacrifice fly later in the inning made it a 3-0 game.

Unlike his previous outing at Pittsburgh where he gave up four first-inning runs in a loss, Owings avoided his penchant for early danger. Milwaukee was held scoreless for the first three innings, with the help of two double plays.

"I felt good with my stuff tonight," Owings said. "I can't say enough about [catcher Ryan] Hanigan back there. He called a great game for me. We had a good game plan going and stuck with it."

A fourth-inning potential double play that wasn't turned by Adam Rosales and Jerry Hairston Jr. resulted in an error that led to three Brewers runs that tied the score.

Owings didn't waste any time to bail himself out with his bat. In the bottom of the fourth, his drive to left-center field landed past diving left fielder Ryan Braun and scored Paul Janish. Owings hustled around the bases and, with a feet-first slide, barely beat the throw to third base.

After being called safe, a jubilant Owings pounded on the bag.

"For one, I was out of breath and tired," said Owings, who hit his only other triple in 2007 with Arizona. "I don't know if I was surprised that I made it and was safe, and together from the previous half-inning, it was a rush of emotions."

Taveras was batting when Looper's wild pitch allowed Owings to score.

Owings, a .319 lifetime hitter entering the night, is now batting .294 (5-for-17) with three RBIs and two runs scored. His bat has given the Reds an extra weapon when he starts, and he's also the bench's best right-handed pinch-hitter when he doesn't take the mound.

"I say it all the time. I'm fortunate to be able to swing it and be blessed with God-given talent that I have," Owings said. "I take a lot of pride in it. I know a lot of guys are going to continue to bear down on me, but I'm going to bear down, too, and keep seeing what I can do to help the team."

A sacrifice fly by Hanigan in the Reds' fifth opened a 6-3 lead, but Milwaukee kept it close. Mike Cameron's second RBI groundout of the night and an RBI double by Hardy off Owings made it a one-run game.

The Reds' bullpen, which needed Janish to move from shortstop to emergency relief a night earlier, came up big. Nick Masset, Arthur Rhodes and Francisco Cordero dealt three scoreless, hitless innings. Cordero's perfect ninth made him 8-for-8 in save chances.

"I'm glad we got the victory for [Owings] because he gave it all he had," Baker said. "I'd hate to have him get a no-decision after pitching, hitting and running -- doing everything he did."

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