Dempster escapes early trouble, Reds bats do the rest

CINCINNATI (AP) -- Ryan Dempster finally came through as advertised.

The right-hander escaped two bases-loaded threats during a
make-or-break start, and Jason LaRue homered and drove in three
runs as the Cincinnati Reds beat San Diego 9-0 Saturday night.

The Reds improved to 4-1 against the Padres this season and
stayed in a second-place tie with Houston in the NL Central, two
games behind St. Louis.

Every Reds starter except Russell Branyan had a hit as
Cincinnati pulled away for the second straight game. LaRue led the
way with a double, RBI single, sacrifice fly and solo homer.

"That's two nights in a row that the guys have brought some
serious whooping-sticks,'' said Dempster, who gave up four hits in
six innings. "I felt 100 times better tonight. It's easy when
they're scoring runs like that.''

The Reds scored nine first-inning runs Friday night in a 12-10
win. In their last 14 games, the Padres have been outscored 27-3 in
the first inning.

Aaron Boone followed his three-homer night with an RBI double
off the wall in center, Sean Casey had three doubles and a single,
and Adam Dunn singled twice and stole a base on his bobblehead
night in front of 40,814 fans.

The focus was on Dempster (7-11), who gave up 10 runs in four
innings last Sunday in San Diego.

Cincinnati got Dempster from Florida on July 11, but he pitched
so poorly in his first five starts -- 1-3 with an 11.74 ERA -- that
he was in danger of losing his spot in the rotation with one more
bad showing.

He saved himself with his first solid start since the trade.

"It took a big weight off my shoulders,'' he said. "Now I've
got eight or nine more starts to prepare for.''

The right-hander struggled at the outset, letting the Padres
load the bases in the first. Dempster shouted and pumped his fist
twice in celebration after Bubba Trammell grounded out, ending the

"Once he got out of that, you could see he had the stuff
tonight,'' Casey said. "The way he pitched for us was huge. We're
really counting on him the rest of the year.''

Joey Hamilton started throwing in the bullpen when the Padres
loaded the bases again in the fifth, but Phil Nevin grounded into a
forceout. In his other five starts for the Reds, Dempster rarely
escaped a threat.

"He got into some tight situations and when he needed to make a
pitch, he made it,'' LaRue said. "He didn't want to just groove a
fastball to hitters. He never gave in to any hitter or left a ball
over the plate that they could drive.''

Bruce Chen and Hamilton finished off a five-hitter, the Reds'
fourth combined shutout of the season. It was Hamilton's first
relief appearance since June 1, 1999, ending a streak of 65
consecutive starts.

After the game, manager Bob Boone said Hamilton would stay in
the bullpen for awhile. He had been scheduled to start next Tuesday
against Arizona, but Boone is going to rearrange his rotation for
the series.

The Reds gave away 20,000 Dunn bobbleheads in 46 minutes before
the game, played before their third capacity crowd of the season.
They also sold out opening day and an Eric Davis bobblehead
giveaway July 20.

Bobby J. Jones (7-6) gave up eight runs and 12 hits in 5 2/3
innings, setting up another long night for San Diego. Dunn's RBI
single in the first got the Reds rolling.

Jones developed a sore lower back after his last start, and it's
still bothering him.

"It's been tight ever since,'' Jones said. "I can't get over
my front leg and get my pitches down. It's a problem. I can't
finish my pitches.''

Boone doubled home a run in the second, his only hit in five
at-bats. Boone homered twice in Cincinnati's nine-run first inning
Friday night.

LaRue had an RBI single in the third and a sacrifice fly in the
fifth that made it 5-0. Todd Walker's leadoff homer started a
three-run sixth off Jones, and LaRue hit a solo homer -- his eighth
-- off Brandon Villafuerte in the seventh.

Game notes
Jones walked Austin Kearns in the first inning, ending his
streak at 38 1-3 innings without walking a batter. ... LHP Bobby M.
Jones will make a spot start for the Padres on Sunday, his first
since July 4, 2000, at Florida. ... SS Barry Larkin was scratched
from the Reds' lineup because of a stiff neck. Larkin, 38, has been
out of the starting lineup for 20 of the team's 115 games. He went
for an MRI test. ... Reds RHP Jose Silva, on the DL with a sore
shoulder, cut his right ankle on a door at the ballpark Saturday and needed 14 stitches.