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Kearns' two-run homer in ninth gives Reds win

4/11/2003

CINCINNATI (AP) -- One hanging breaking ball turned another bad
night for the Cincinnati Reds at their new ballpark into the best
one yet.

Austin Kearns' two-run homer off Jose Mesa in the ninth inning
Friday gave the Reds their first dramatic victory at Great American
Ball Park, 7-6 over the Philadelphia Phillies.

There were as many mood swings as home run swings while the Reds
blew a 5-1 lead, then came from behind in the ninth and finished
the night hugging and hopping at home plate.

"It's definitely a memory for this ballpark," said Sean Casey,
who singled ahead of Kearns' homer. "We definitely had to have
that one."

It appeared the Phillies were going to get it with a late rally
led by Placido Polanco, who had a double, single and homer in his
last three at-bats.

The crowd of 27,738 booed loudly when shortstop Felipe Lopez
threw away David Bell's two-out grounder with the bases loaded in
the eighth, letting in two runs. Tyler Houston's pinch two-run
single tied it.

Lopez, who started because Barry Larkin has a strained calf, was
booed again when he came to bat in the bottom of the inning and
grounded out.

"Everybody tried to pick me up -- the whole team," said Lopez,
who hadn't made an error this season. "That's why I like playing
here. It was going to happen sometime in my career."

The boos intensified when Polanco led off the ninth with his
first homer off Gabe White, putting the Phillies up 6-5, and a puff
of smoke was accidentally set off from the Reds' home run stacks in
celebration.

On came Mesa (1-1), who hadn't given up a run in 10 career
appearances against Cincinnati. He gave up Casey's one-out single,
then left his next pitch to Kearns up and over the plate.

"You see a breaking ball up, you try to take advantage of it,"
Kearns said.

He was mobbed at home plate after the first two-homer game of
his career. He also had a solo shot in the seventh off Hector
Mercado, giving him one in each of his last two at-bats and a
team-leading five overall.

"That's overrated," said Kearns, who hit 13 in 107 games for
the Reds last season. "I'm not a home run hitter. You can't be a
home run hitter when you go two months without one, like I did last
year. The last thing I want to try to do is hit a home run."

Scott Williamson (2-0) got the final out in the ninth for the
win, leaving the Reds 3-4 at their new ballpark.

"I'm proud of the way we battled," said Jim Thome, who drove
in the Phillies' first run with an infield single. "I look at that
as a big positive. They got a walkoff home run. I'll take Jose in
that situation anytime. He's been a dominant closer throughout his
career."

Adam Dunn also hit a two-run homer off Brett Myers and Kelly
Stinnett had a solo shot. The five homers in all made it 27 in
seven games at Great American.

The Phillies swept the Reds last September in the final series
at Cinergy Field, which was imploded to make way for the new
ballpark. They had a rough time at the new place.

The Phillies' late-starting offense managed only one run and
five hits through the first seven innings, before Lopez's error
gave them a second chance. Reds starter Paul Wilson allowed five
hits and a run in six innings, his second solid start at Great
American.

Wilson has allowed 13 hits and two earned runs in 12 2-3 innings
during his two starts in a ballpark where homers fly easily.

"That's just the way this place is," Wilson said. "All you
can do is keep the ball down."

Mesa couldn't.

Game notes
Bell was back in the lineup at third base after missing
three of the last four games with back spasms. ... The Reds signed
RHP Joey Hamilton to a contract with their Triple-A Louisville
team. Hamilton declined arbitration from the Reds after last season
and went to St. Louis, which released him this spring. ... Kearns
couldn't stop his swing on a pitch that tailed in and hit him in
the chest in the third inning, so it was a strike. In his next
at-bat, he got hit in the hip by a pitch and got first base. ...
Dunn had a single and double in three at-bats, a day after he was
benched for one game to try to cure his slump. Dunn has turned into
an all-or-nothing hitter -- 6-for-32 with four homers and 13
strikeouts.

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