CINCINNATI (AP) – The shiny Ohio Cup will stay in the southern part of the state for another year – not that Cincinnati really cares all that much.
The first-place Reds have much grander trophies in mind.
Laynce Nix singled home the tiebreaking run in the sixth inning Saturday night and came around to score on a jarring dive into home, rallying the Reds to their fifth straight win, 6-4 over the Cleveland Indians.
Nix’s single off Justin Masterson (2-7) was the turning point to a ragged game on a hot, humid night. Cincinnati held on for its fourth victory in five games this season against its free-falling intrastate rival.
“I don’t think we don’t put too much stock in the Ohio Cup,” Nix said. “We want to win this game. But it’s better to win (the trophy) than not.”
They’re on a nice little surge.
Cincinnati has moved back into first place in the NL Central, a half-game ahead of St. Louis. The Reds haven’t been in first so late in a season since 1999, the last time they made a serious run at the postseason. They lost a one-game playoff to the Mets that year for the NL wild card.
In that context, beating the Indians is secondary stuff.
“The bigger thing is returning to first place,” manager Dusty Baker said.
Cleveland is marooned in last. The Indians have lost a season-high seven in a row and 11 of 12, falling a season-low 21 games under .500. They have the third-worst record in the majors at 26-47, on pace to lose 100 games only three years after they won the AL Central and came within one victory of the World Series.
“We may not be as talented as some teams, so we have to do the little things,” Masterson said.
They don’t do those very well.
Masterson committed his fifth error on a pickoff throw – the Indians lead the AL with 56 of them – and threw a pair of wild pitches while giving up a 3-1 lead. The Indians also had a runner caught in a rundown between second and third on a botched steal attempt.
Ugly all around.
Reds rookie starter Sam LeCure faded fast on a sticky, 88-degree evening with no breeze, failing to make it through the fourth inning. Pitchers regularly worked deep into counts, struggling to keep their hands dry so they could get a grip on their pitches.
“I think it was more the humidity than the heat,” LeCure said. “A couple of balls slipped a little bit.”
Daniel Ray Herrera (1-3) got the final out in the sixth. Left-hander Arthur Rhodes pitched the seventh, tying a major league record with his 33rd straight scoreless appearance. Francisco Cordero gave up a two-out RBI single by Austin Kearns in the ninth before fanning Shelley Duncan for his 20th save in 25 tries.
The Reds have dominated the intrastate rivalry in the last three years, going 13-4.
The game drew 37,757 fans, some of whom tried to start a wave during the top of the sixth inning to amuse themselves. It ended fast – much too hot to move around.
Then, Nix got them on their feet.
His single put the Reds up 4-3 in the bottom of the sixth. He eventually scored from third on Miguel Cairo’s sacrifice fly, going headfirst into the plate behind catcher Carlos Santana, who had to move to get the throw. Nix expected him to block the plate and planned to go in hard.
“I was ready,” he said.
Santana was back in the lineup a day after he jammed his left thumb and left Cincinnati’s 10-3 win. Santana doubled home a run in the first inning. Anderson Hernandez doubled home two more in the fourth off LeCure, who lasted only 3 1/3 innings – the shortest of his six starts – while giving up six hits and four walks.
NOTES: The Reds lead the series 35-33. … Cleveland is 4-13 in interleague play this season. Cincinnati is 8-6. … Indians 2B Jayson Nix and Reds LF Laynce Nix started together in a big league game for the first time. They’re one of eight sets of brothers currently in the majors. The Indians claimed Jayson Nix off waivers from the White Sox on Thursday. … Masterson singled in the second inning for his first big league hit.